Nationals 5, Rockies 4, 10 innings

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WASHINGTON (AP)—D’Angelo Jimenez tossed his head back and laughed at the question, baring the braces on his teeth.

Of course he knew he’d get another hit one day. And drive in another run. He is, after all, a professional baseball player, someone in his eighth major league season.

Yet when he stepped to the plate with the score tied and one out in the bottom of the 10th inning Thursday night, the last position player at Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta’s disposal, pretty much everyone on the club knew the key stats: Jimenez was 0-for-19 as a pinch hitter in 2007, 1-for-25 overall.

And soon, all of those people in white uniforms were rushing onto the field to celebrate. That’s because Jimenez finally delivered, lining a game-ending RBI single up the middle off LaTroy Hawkins to give Washington a 5-4 comeback victory over the Colorado Rockies.

“The odds were in his favor,” Acta said with a smile. “When you get sent out there 15, 20 times in a row and you don’t get a hit, yes, (teammates are) aware of that. … Everyone in there was pulling for him. They wanted him to get a hit so bad, whether it was to win the ballgame or just to snap out of it.”

Jimenez did both, raising his season batting average to .077, collecting his first RBI since May 31, 2006, and helping the Nationals win their fifth consecutive one-run game.

“It’s kind of been frustrating,” said the 29-year-old Jimenez, who’s with his seventh club. “Just have to be strong. Everybody’s going to be in a slump.”

Austin Kearns led off the 10th with a single to right off Hawkins (1-5), advanced to second on a sacrifice and took third on a wild pitch. That’s when Jimenez hit Hawkins’ 2-0 cutter.

Asked whether he considered putting Jimenez on base and pitching instead to Nook Logan, the .220 hitter on deck, Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said: “It’s not like Jimenez was hot. We took our shot.”

Hurdle’s preferred closer, Brian Fuentes, is on the disabled list, and replacement Manny Corpas had pitched three straight days so he wasn’t available.

Still, as Hurdle noted, “We were in a position to put the game away and we didn’t.”

That’s for sure. Consider: Colorado took a 4-2 lead into the eighth. The Nationals played most of the game without Dmitri Young, the NL’s leading hitter, who was ejected for arguing with the home plate umpire in the third inning.

But four Nationals pitchers combined to retire Colorado’s final 13 batters. That included winner Jon Rauch (4-2), who pitched a perfect 10th.

The Nationals scored twice in the eighth to tie the game with help from an error by right fielder Brad Hawpe.

Reliever Jeremy Affeldt came on at the beginning of that inning and gave up a one-out single to Ryan Church, then hit Kearns with a pitch. One out later, rookie Jesus Flores lined a pinch-hit single to right, and when the ball bounced through Hawpe’s legs and to the wall, both runners scored to make it 4-4.

“Didn’t field it—no excuses,” Hawpe said.

Said Flores: “When he missed it, I just tried to run harder.”

The stands behind the home dugout at RFK Stadium were bouncing, a rare occurrence this season, as Flores wound up on third. But Logan swung at Hawkins’ first offering and grounded out to shortstop to end the inning. Then, in the ninth, Hawkins walked two and went to a 3-0 count on Church with two outs. But the right-hander wound up getting Church on a comebacker to send the game to extra innings.

“Not good,” Hawkins said. “I was sweating all over the place.”

Colorado led thanks to two-run homers by Garrett Atkins and Troy Tulowitzki off Washington starter Matt Chico, plus Ubaldo Jimenez’s five strong innings in his 2007 big league debut.

Tulowitzki’s 11th home run came in the first inning, and Atkins’ 14th came in the fourth—and both followed leadoff walks issued by Chico, a rookie lefty who has won only one of his past 11 starts.

“He had that first inning and that fourth inning where he pitched like an unpolished minor league kid, walking guys and unable to put away a guy 0-2,” Acta said. “And then he gives us four outstanding innings and saved our bullpen real good.”

Notes

RHP Jason Simontacchi (right elbow tendinitis) was replaced as Washington’s starter for Friday. LHP Billy Traber will fill in, his first start of 2007. … Young’s ejection was the fifth of his career, and first since Sept. 21, 2004. His 10-game hitting streak ended.

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