Dodgers walk off in 10th, move up in West
Loney hits winning single as LA gains on three teams
LOS ANGELES -- James Loney saw a 1-0 slider from a southpaw in his second-to-last at-bat, too. The result was a groundout to second in the eighth inning, on a check swing Loney called his worst ever.
The Dodgers first baseman wouldn't go as far as to say he's a guess hitter, he tries not to think that way. But when he was up the next time, with the bases loaded and one out in the 10th inning on Saturday at Dodger Stadium, and there was another left-hander on the mound and the count was 1-0 again, well, it had Loney thinking.
"It was in my mind, you know, as far as last time," Loney said. "But that doesn't mean it's going to happen this time.
Loney lined Sean Burnett's 1-0 slider down the right-field line to score Ronnie Belliard and give the Dodgers a 3-2 win, the third walk-off hit of Loney's career and his second of the season. It was the eighth walk-off win of the season for the Dodgers, who picked up a game on all three teams ahead of them in the National League West. The division-leading Padres, the Wild Card-leading Giants and the Rockies all lost.
Even catcher Russell Martin, on crutches with a hip injury that has him out for the season, made his way out of the dugout for the celebration.
"I like W's," Martin said. "They make me heal quicker."
Starter Hiroki Kuroda retired the final 17 batters he faced, and the only relievers the Dodgers needed were their best, Hong-Chih Kuo (eighth inning) and Jonathan Broxton (ninth and 10th). Broxton worked around a Casey Blake error in the 10th for his fourth win of the season.
"It was inspirational to see Russell out there," manager Joe Torre said. "The way Kuroda pitched, then we used Kuo and Broxton for a couple of innings. It certainly would've been a downer if we weren't able to pull that one out."
The bottom of the 10th began with a walk from Belliard, batting in place of Broxton. After failing to get a bunt down, Scott Podsednik singled to put runners on the corners, and the Nationals brought in right fielder Michael Morse to second base as a fifth infielder with Ryan Theriot at the plate. Inevitably, Theriot grounded out right to Morse, who recorded the rarely seen 9-3 putout. Morse had already proved his defensive worth in the fourth, when he robbed Matt Kemp of a potential grand slam.
With first open, a hot Andre Ethier was intentionally walked to bring up Loney.
"You want to think positive," Loney said. "Have an idea up there what you want."
The score had been tied at 2 since the fourth inning thanks to book-end performances from the starters. Livan Hernandez was perfect for the first 13 batters he faced, while Kuroda was perfect for his last 17.
Kuroda entered the night with the 11th fewest free passes issued per nine innings this season in the NL. The only one he allowed Saturday was to the first batter of the game. Two batters later, Ryan Zimmerman's homer to center put the Nationals up, 2-0.
It wasn't even that bid a pitch.
"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."
"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."
The last baserunners Kuroda allowed came on consecutive singles with one out in the second. Finding his groove, Kuroda struck out the side in the third inning and then the first batter in the fourth for four straight. Kuroda was pulled after just 88 pitches for pinch-hitter Reed Johnson in the bottom of the seventh. He finished with eight strikeouts.
The move worked to an extent: Johnson doubled to right with one out in just his second at-bat since returning from the disabled list. He was stranded there, though, by Podsednik and Theriot, just as the bases were left loaded by Jamey Carroll an inning before.
"Sometimes it can be tough if you get off to a slow start," Johnson said. "It's almost like starting your season over again. It always is frustrating not scoring, though."
Unmistakable for a world-beater, the Dodgers' lineup had managed nothing off Hernandez until the bottom of the fourth. The Dodgers' offense has scored the fewest runs in the Majors since the All-Star break, 58 in 23 games.
Theriot flicked a liner up the middle, past diving second baseman Adam Kennedy, with one out in the fourth inning for the Dodgers' first baserunner.
"We just need to start swinging the bats a little bit," Torre said. "That's been the tough part because we've put a lot of pressure on our pitchers."
Kemp, who had driven in just four runs in his last 14 games, came up with the bases loaded two batters latter. He nearly matched that RBI total on the second pitch.
Kemp would've had a grand slam if it weren't for Morse, who leaped in front of the out-of-town scoreboard and brought back Kemp's deep drive for a sacrifice fly that cut the lead to 2-1.
As the play wound down -- music had already started to play over the Dodgers' PA system -- the cut-off man Kennedy tried to throw to an uncovered first base to double up Loney. The ball went to the backstop, allowing Ethier to score the tying run and Loney to move to second on the error.
Said Torre, "We just hope it's going to come a little easier here."
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.