Washington, DC – Matt Kemp blasted the go-ahead solo home run in the top of the ninth inning as the Los Angeles Dodgers topped the Washington Nationals, 7-6, in the nightcap of a doubleheader at Nationals Park.
Trailing, 6-0, heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, the Nationals mounted a furious rally to tie the game at six, but in the top half of the ninth, Kemp got a high fastball from Washington closer Tyler Clippard (2-5) and deposited it onto the lawn beyond the center-field wall to give LA the lead again.
"I think everyone in the ballpark, including myself, thought we were going to win this game tonight," Clippard said. "It's tough to swallow knowing that I made the pitch I wanted to make and got hurt on it."
Hanley Ramirez drove in three runs, while Kemp finished 2-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBI for the Dodgers, who are two games behind St. Louis for the final wild-card berth in the National League. The Cardinals blanked Houston, 5-0, on Wednesday.
Ronald Belisario (7-1) got the final two outs of the rocky eighth inning to get the win behind starter Josh Beckett, who allowed four runs -- three earned -- on five hits over 7 1/3 innings. Brandon League worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save.
"At the end of the day, we split and have a chance to win a series tomorrow," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "We have five series left, if we win five series, we like our chances."
Michael Morse ripped a solo homer and knocked in three runs -- all in the eighth inning --, while Steve Lombardozzi added a two-run shot for the Nationals, who won the opener of the twinbill behind six solid innings from Jordan Zimmermann.
Los Angeles broke a scoreless deadlock in the third. Mark Ellis started the rally with a one-out single before back-to-back walks to Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez loaded the bases. Ramirez came up with a big two-run single back through the box and Andre Ethier followed with a bloop single into right, extending the lead to three.
Matt Treanor led off the Los Angeles fourth with a single, moved to second on a perfect sacrifice bunt by Beckett, to third on a groundout by Ellis and scored via a single into left field by Kemp.
Gonzalez followed with a base hit to load the bags and Nats starter John Lannan was removed for Chien-Ming Wang, who made his first major-league appearance since June 30.
He immediately uncorked a wild pitch, which allowed Shane Victorino to score. Ramirez then grounded into a fielder's choice for the final out of the inning, but it was determined that Gonzalez crossed the plate before Kemp was tagged out, making it a 6-0 LA lead.
After struggling against Beckett for most of the game, the explosive Nats offense got it going in a big way in eighth as they pushed across six runs.
Morse began the frame with an opposite-field bomb over the wall in right and Lombardozzi whacked a two-run shot over the right-field fence two batters later to pull the Nats within three.
Corey Brown reached base on an error by Gonzalez, which ended the night for Beckett. Randy Choate was summoned from the bullpen and gave up a pinch-hit single to Mark DeRosa and Bryce Harper followed with a run-scoring single to make it 6-4.
Belisario came on and allowed a pinch-hit single to Danny Espinosa to load the bases before Morse laced a two-run single into right, tying the game at six.
Despite the setback, the Nationals are one win away from clinching a postseason spot for only the second time in the history of the Montreal/ Washington franchise. The Expos only postseason appearance came in 1981,when they lost to the eventual World Series Champion Dodgers in the NLCS ... Lannan allowed six runs on eight hits and two walks over 3 2/3 innings ... Los Angeles finished 4-for-14 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base.