Dodgers complete sweep of Nationals
Hillenbrand plates Kent with walk-off sac fly in finale win
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are following the cue of their second baseman Jeff Kent, and it's leading them to victories.
Kent singled to lead off the 12th inning and came around to score the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly by Shea Hillenbrand as the Dodgers recorded their fourth consecutive victory, defeating the Nationals, 10-9, on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
"I know a lot us were hanging, a [day] game after a night game. It's a struggle," Kent said. "We got to battle; we got to battle for long time, not just today."
Kent rarely shows emotion on the field, and on Sunday against the Mets when he was hit in the head by 91-mph fastball he demonstrated that exact trait. The veteran stood at the plate, dazed, but not shaken.
On Wednesday afternoon, he did the same -- except this time, he scored the winning run, and as his teammates mobbed him at home plate, the 39-year-old stood patiently shaking hands as the rest of guys jumped around him.
"Kent doesn't show much emotion, he's a ballplayer," said catcher Russell Martin, whose clutch double in the 12th inning moved Kent to third. "I bet he's a heck of a poker player."
The play at the plate was another example of what Kent brings to the field on daily basis. Hillenbrand hit a short fly ball to right field, which was caught by Austin Kearns, who then hurried his throw and put it right on the money as Kent dove to the right of the plate just under the tag of catcher Jesus Flores.
"I had two choices there," Kent said. "I was either going to take him out and one of us was going to get hurt; or if he gave me the bag, I was going to take the headfirst slide. I knew right away I was going to go. You have to push, if I'm out, then I'm out.
The Dodgers completed the sweep of the Nationals, but it didn't come easy. Starting pitcher Brad Penny struggled, putting Los Angeles in a five-run hole early in the game.
Penny, who has been the ace of the staff and the go-to guy in the rotation, wasn't his usual self, allowing six runs on eight hits while striking out just one in five innings. Penny had trouble locating his fastball early in the game, leading to a four-run second inning.
The offense didn't let the deficit bring them down, scoring two runs in the second inning on a two-run homer by Martin. Martin, who had two hits and scored two runs, drilled a hanging curve by Nationals starter Shawn Hill into the bullpen in left field for his 17th homer of the season.
The Dodgers added another run in the third on single by James Loney, which scored Luis Gonzalez, before tying the game in the sixth inning.
With the score 8-3, the Dodgers put together a five-run sixth inning, led by Loney, who hit a bases-loaded three-run double to cut the lead to two. The following hitter, Hillenbrand, who had two hits and three RBIs, picked a perfect time to hit his first homer as a Dodger, tying the game with a blast into left-center field.
"I'm just trying to do my thing -- whatever I can do to help the team win," Hillenbrand said. "We've been taxed a little bit with the schedule, but we're all leaning on each other, and we just have to keep playing hard."
With the score knotted at 8, each team scored a run in the seventh inning, sending the game into extra innings. After using Mark Hendrickson, Rudy Seanez, Joe Beimel, Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito, manager Grady Little turned to Scott Proctor in the 10th inning.
Proctor, who has struggled since being acquired from the Yankees on Aug. 1, delivered his best performance of the season, blanking the Nationals for three innings and earning his third victory.
Proctor allowed just one hit while throwing a season-high 47 pitches in the three innings, providing the Dodgers with a much-needed performance out of 'pen.
"Hey, as long as they leave me in the game, I'm going to just keep throwing," Proctor said. "I was just trying to chew up as many outs as I could, and we got a big team win. We came back from five down and got some big defensive plays -- it's a big win."
The Dodgers now head to San Diego with a chance to cut the Padres' lead in the National League Wild Card race to one game. The Dodgers have picked a perfect time to streak, winning 10 of their last 14 games.
"Today was a big game for us. Just a couple of weeks ago we were in a rut, and now we're starting to play better," said veteran outfielder Gonzalez. "We swept the series and that's what we needed to do. It's not how you start, it's how you finish."
Jayson Addcox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.