08/08/10 3:30 AM ET
Nationals let one get away in 10th in LA
Offense shut down after Zimmerman's homer in first inning
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
The Dodgers scored the winning run off reliever Sean Burnett. After Ronnie Belliard walked to start the inning, Scott Podsednik hit a blooper over the head of second baseman Adam Kennedy to put runners on first and third with no outs.
With the winning run on third, Nationals manger Jim Riggleman decided to use five infielders to prevent the winning run from scoring. He put right fielder Michael Morse between second and short to prevent the ball from going up the middle. It was the first time since 2006 that Morse played a middle-infield position.
Morse decided to use the glove belonging to shortstop Ian Desmond, and the move paid off as Ryan Theriot hit the ball up the middle. Morse grabbed the ball, prevented the run from scoring and threw Theriot out at first base.
The play gave Morse hope that Washington could get out of the inning.
"I've never seen that play work," Morse said. "Before that play, I saw the manager pointing at me. It made me feel good because I said, 'I'm going into the infield right here.' Riggleman knows I've played the middle infield before. I was kind of excited. To be that guy. I felt like I didn't miss a beat."
Morse was back in right field when Riggleman decided to walk Andre Ethier intentionally before Burnett gave up bases-loaded single to James Loney to end the game. The loss dropped Washington's record to 49-62.
"It's nice to get the spark on the left side of the ledger," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "We need some wins. We certainly needed to win this one tonight. Hopefully, we can win the series tomorrow."
This is a game the Nationals should have won.
Right-hander Livan Hernandez had another solid outing, allowing one earned run in seven innings, but he ended up with his eighth no-decision.
Hernandez was given a 2-0 lead, when Zimmerman hit a two-run homer off right-hander Hiroki Kuroda in the first inning. But the Nats couldn't do anything after that. Kuroda retired the final 17 hitters he faced.
"He settled in," Zimmerman said. "The pitch I hit wasn't a bad pitch either. He has that good sinker. He was getting ahead and was keeping the ball down."
"He really had all of his pitches working," Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus said. "His split was really good, his sinker was moving a lot. Even the ball that Zimmerman hit out wasn't a bad pitch, it was down in the zone. He just put a good swing on it."
In the fourth inning, Los Angeles had the bases loaded with one out. Matt Kemp hit ball that looked like a grand slam over the right-field fence, but Morse jumped and made a sensational catch.
"It sounded good off the bat, so I ran back to the wall," Morse said. "It was going out. I said I'm going to try to bring it back somehow. I got to the wall, made a jump for it. I put my glove up there and I felt it hitting my glove. I just threw the ball in. I was going to try to throw it as quick as possible."
Theriot scored easily on the play, while Ethier scored the tying run on a throwing error by second baseman Kennedy, who thought he could double up Loney at first base. Unfortunately, no one was covering the bag. Kennedy saw three Dodgers near the first-base bag and thought someone was covering first base.
However, first baseman Adam Dunn was on the infield grass looking to cut off the throw home from Kennedy.
"I knew what [Kennedy] was thinking. There were so many Dodgers at first base," Morse said. "There was their first-base coach. You had Loney coming back to the bag and you had Kemp right there, too, and it looked like somebody was at the bag. He threw it and I saw Dunn closer to the pitcher's mound and things happened."
Dunn said he didn't see Loney trying to go back to first base.
"If I saw Loney take off, I would have went back to the bag and we would have had him," Dunn said.
Riggleman said he didn't have a problem with how the play unfolded.
"Adam Dunn felt like with the ball was coming in so deep in right field, he was thinking to stop the runner on second from scoring," Riggleman said. "And Kennedy is thinking, let's double this guy at first. One of those fluky things that happen."
The Nationals had a chance to score in the top of the eighth inning. They had the bases loaded with two outs against reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, but Dunn popped up to third baseman Casey Blake to end the inning.
"We had chance to win the game offensively," Riggleman said. "That's where we didn't win the game. We didn't lose that game defensively. We just didn't score enough runs."