Nationals end season with 14-inning win over Mets

By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 4, 2010; 12:40 AM

NEW YORK - This Washington Nationals season included, in no particular order, a promising start, a brawl, an unbearable Tommy John surgery announcement, a tantrum-induced inside-the-park home run, a season-crushing fade that never stopped, so much anti-climax and the one blissful June night when the baseball world turned its gaze toward Washington not to laugh, but to watch in awe.

For all of the unexpected turns and comic twists and tragic ends, the goofiest moment came last. On Sunday at Citi Field, a windy day made for hooded sweatshirts, the Nationals played 14 innings in Game 162 and beat the New York Mets, 2-1, before 30,849. They scored the game-winning run, after their rock-steady bullpen dominated, when four consecutive hitters stood still in the batter's box.

Justin Maxwell forced home the final run of the Nationals' season by taking ball four from a pitcher previously resigned to calcifying in the Mets bullpen. Oliver Perez, in his third appearance since Aug. 1, hit one batter and walked two others to load the bases before facing Maxwell.

Miguel Batista pitched the final inning for a tirelessly excellent bullpen that produced 71/3 scoreless frames.

As day turned to evening, the game took on an oddly familiar feel. Last year, when the Nationals toppled the Atlanta Braves, 2-1, it took 15 innings for their final game to end.

"The guys started telling me it's kind of becoming a tradition here," Batista said. "My first question was, 'Did you guys win?' I don't want to stay this long and lose."

The Nationals finished 69-93, a 10-win improvement over last season but tied with Manny Acta's Cleveland Indians for the sixth-worst record in the majors.

For dissatisfied players and coaches, their final, delirious victory aside, it was hard to find progress amongst all those losses.

"I'm not happy with the year at all," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "I thought we should have won 75 ballgames. We didn't reach 70. So I'm certainly not satisfied with what we did. Now, am I satisfied with the effort we got and the intensity and the passion we played with? Yeah."

Along the way, the Nationals mastered squandering momentum, sometimes before they could even gather it.

They compiled just one four-game winning streak, none longer. Only one other team, the Kansas City Royals, did not have either a five-game winning streak or multiple four-game tears.

"I think it's a very disappointing season," said first baseman Adam Dunn, who left the game for a pinch hitter stuck on 199 strikeouts. "I think this team is capable of a lot more. For some reason, we never got it going. I don't know, but it's here. For some reason, it's not coming out on a consistent, day-to-day basis. I don't know why that is."

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company