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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Padres Explode In Eighth To Down Nats 5-2

San Diego, CA--San Diego outfielder Jody Gerut hit a three-run home run off Washington Nationals rookie reliever Charlie Manning in the bottom of the eighth inning Thursday and the Padres held on to win the game 5-2 and the series two games to one. In a battle of two of the lowest run-producing line-ups in the National League, San Diego triumphed by winning the rubber match and sending the Nats to a weekend series in Arizona bruised and feeling like they should have fared better against a team that came into play tied for the worst record in the majors.

When a team is struggling, sometimes one big hit makes all the difference, and the Padres got that hit from forgotten outfielder Gerut. Once a prized prospect in the Cleveland organization, Gerut has fought injuries and bounced to the Cubs and Pittsburgh -- with several minor league stops in between -- before settling this season in the Padres outfield, after a hideous start to the season from veteran Jim Edmonds, which found Edmonds placed on the waiver wire. Gerut hit 22 home runs in his rookie season with Cleveland in 2003 and, now healthy, is starting to produce for the Padres.

The ill-fated inning for Washington started with Saul Rivera on the hill, who had relieved starter John Lannan in the previous inning. Rivera (L, 3-3, 4.64) got the first out as Kevin Kouzmanoff grounded out, but shortstop Khalil Greene got San Diego's rally started with a single to center field. Michael Barrett then singled to right field, moving Green up to second. At that point, Manager Manny Acta went to the pen again, calling on the rookie to face Gerut, making his first at bat of the game after entering as a defensive replacement. Manning has done nothing but struggle since his recall last week, and he would fare no better against Gerut. Manning quickly got ahead in the count 1-2, but Gerut delivered the next offering into the right field grandstand for the 5-2 lead. Manning's ERA now stands at 9.00 after four appearances covering three innings.

The Nationals hitters were held down all day by five Padres pitchers. Starter Wil Ledezma went five innings, giving up one earned run on just two hits and three walks, striking out seven. He was followed by Bryan Corey, Cla Meredith (one earned run on one hit and one walk), Heath Bell (W, 2-3, 2.37) and Trevor Hoffman, who finished up after Gerut's heroics for his eleventh save of the season. Nats starter John Lannan threw six innings and battled some control issues, as he allowed five hits and three walks in five innings of work, but he mitigated the damage and only surrendered two earned runs, when Edgar Gonzalez drove in his little brother Adrian and Kouzmanoff with a bases-loaded single in the fourth inning.

The Nats' two runs were the manufactured kind. In the top of the fourth, Lastings Milledge bunted safely, stole second and third, and scored on an Elijah Dukes' sacrifice fly. In the seventh, Dukes walked with one out, stole second, took third on a ground out and scored on a Ryan Langerhans single.

The Nats were beneficiaries in Wednesday's game of Jesus Flores' grand slam, but when a team is struggling they can't always depend on that "one big hit" surfacing, and it was noticeably absent Thursday in sunny San Diego.

The Nationals travel to Phoenix to play the Diamondbacks Friday night. Tim Redding (6-3, 3.59) looks to get the Nats off on the right foot in Arizona against Micah Owings (6-2, 3.73) at 9:40 pm EDT.

NATS NOTES: With the loss, Washington stands at 23-32, last in the National League East.

Justin Maxwell, of Double-A Harrisburg, will miss up to six weeks with a right wrist injury. The team has released few details, but Harrisburg Manager John Stearns indicated there is concern with "possible ligament damage." Maxwell has been placed on the minor league 7-day disabled list.

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