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09/25/09 12:56 AM ET

Nats drop seesaw affair to Dodgers

Martin puts team in hole after allowing four runs in first

WASHINGTON -- The score between the Nationals and Dodgers went back and forth on Thursday night at Nationals Park. When it was over, Los Angeles ended up with a 7-6 victory, while Washington lost its 100th game of the season.

It was the second consecutive 100-loss season for the Nationals and fourth in franchise history.

After the game, it was clear the Nationals don't consider themselves a bad team. With a roster that includes third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, center fielder Nyjer Morgan and pitcher John Lannan, interim manager Jim Riggleman feels the team is not far from being winners.

"I'm just so proud of these guys," Riggleman said. "With exception of a ballgame or two -- from the All-Star break on -- we have been outstanding in terms of effort and attitude. Our fans responded to the energy on the field.

"It has the potential to be a beautiful situation because the players want it, the fans want it. I think we are getting closer. The Dodgers are going to popping champagne any day and we [are going to be right there soon]."

Zimmerman also believes the Nationals are not far away from going to the playoffs, but he is not satisfied with the record.

"To a certain extent, [it was a good second half]," Zimmerman said. "We did a lot of things better than the first half. We played really bad in the first half. I think we have made some strides. We did some things better. I don't think any of us will settle for being OK. We want to be good.

"We made some moves to become a better team. That's the goal, is to get better. I think we have done that. We are really not that far away."

It looked like the Nationals may avoid the century mark, but he pendulum swung in the eighth inning.

The score was tied at 6 in the eighth inning before Rafael Furcal took a 1-0 pitch and homered over the right-center fence off reliever Ron Villone to give Los Angeles a 7-6 lead. Furcal ended up going 4-for-5 in the game.

"The pitch was a little up," Villone said. "It was right over the plate. He was able to drive it. He was on tonight, too. It was my fault, too. ... I was trying to throw the ball down. I left it up and took advantage of it."

Right-hander J.D. Martin started for the Nationals and wasn't effective, allowing four runs in the first inning. It didn't help that Martin didn't have much of a breaking ball. Matt Kemp highlighted the scoring with a three-run homer.

"I think I may have been trying to overthrow a little bit -- it wasn't breaking for me today," Martin said. "It makes it tougher. I need to be successful."

Martin allowed five runs in three innings.

By the sixth inning, however, Nationals outfielder Willie Harris tied the score at 6 with a single to left, scoring Alberto Gonzalez.

The Nationals tried to tie the score at 7 in the eighth off left-hander George Sherrill, but Harris was thrown out at home by right fielder Andre Ethier on a single by Ian Desmond.

"No doubt that it was the right decision to send me home," Harris said. "Desmond hit the ball on the nose -- right at Ethier. You have to take a shot right there, especially knowing the type of bullpen they have on the back end. That was our shot. Ethier made a great play. I tried to knock the ball out of Martin's hand, but he held on to it."

Said Dodgers manager Joe Torre after the game, "He was just right on it. That ball was hit and he was already moving forward. We knew it was on the money, it was just a matter of being a good enough hop for Russell and it was perfect. We know the strength of his arm is pretty incredible. He made it possible to have that one run hold up."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.