in DC - Padres 6, Nationals 5

I'm taking a small break from my regular beat as a minor league scribe, it's the first game between the team I grew up watching and the team of my adopted hometown, the Washington Nationals. The Padres pounded out 16 hits but needed all nine innings to secure the 6-5 win.

Despite playing in air that you could see, the Padres, on Friday night at least, resembled the squad of the magical month of May, a relentless offense anchored by a dominating bullpen.

In the top of the ninth, with the score tied, the Padres were able to get the lead runner on because of an error by the Nationals weak hitting shortstop Cristian Guzman. Manager Bruce Bochy went for the jugular, declining to have Mark Loretta sacrifice and he delivered with a line drive into left field. After a long at bat, Robert Fick hit a short fly over the head of the second baseman into center field for the go ahead run.

Trevor Hoffman was able to close out the game for his twenty eighth save of the year.

Fick who has emerged as one of the Padres biggest surprises of the season, finished the game 2-3, with two walks and two very important RBIs. Fick, once an all-star player with the Detroit Tigers discussed the changes from being an everyday player to a utility player expected to hit and play diverse positions such as catcher, first base and the corner outfield positions.

"Before this year, its been tough," he admitted. "I've gotten a chance to play with Sweeney and Young and learned how to do this. "I lean on them for help when things aren't going well.

"Everyday I go out and take fly balls, ground balls and now they are using me at catcher. I really can't say enough about Boch, he's given me every opportunity to prove myself.

"I've never worked so hard in my life, since I've become a utility player."

In the first inning, back to back singles by Joe Randa and Eric Young gave the team runners on first and second with one out. One batter later, Mark Sweeny hit a bloop single to right center to drive in Randa.

In the bottom of the first inning, Khalil Greene showed the DC faithful, what Padres fans have been used to for the past few years, making a nice backhand stab off of Nick Johnson low sinking line drive.

In the bottom of the second inning, Preston Wilson led off with a double against the left field wall. Woody Williams then committed the unpardonable sine of walking Guzman, who came into the game with a .193 batting average the lowest of any major league regular, to face Livan Hernandez, a pitcher who this year has been viewed as a more dangerous batter than Guzman. Hernandez hit a soft shot down the right field line which fell in for a single, and was compounded by Brian Giles mishandling the ball to allow Guzman to score from first base.

In the top of the third inning, Randa got his second hit of the game, with a double down the left field line. Two batters later Mark Sweeney came through in a repeat of the first inning, hitting a ball into right field for a double with two outs. Hernandez walked the next two batters to bring up Greene with the bases loaded, but Greene was only able to manage a soft fly out to centerfield.

In the top of the fourth inning, Dave Roberts hit his seventh home run on a 1-2 pitch to right field in RFK, a stadium that is actually tougher to hit out of than PETCO.

Singles by Giles and Loretta In the top of the fifth inning put two men on with one. After a wild pitch, Fick singled home Giles, but Loretta had a lapse in judgment and challenged Jose Guillen's arm, one of the best in baseball, and was easily thrown out at the plate.

In the bottom of the frame, the lack of control by Williams finally proved to be his undoing. Williams gave up a single to Brad Wilkerson, followed by plucking Jose Guillen, then walking the next two batters Johnson and Wilson.

Williams got the fading Vinny Castilla to swing at the first pitch and pop out to the first baseman, but ex-Padre catcher Gary Bennet hit a two run single with two outs to chase Williams from the game.

Clay Hensley came in, which led to a double switch of Damien Jackson for Greene at shortstop. Williams finished the night giving up five runs, four earned in four and 2/3, but the number that really hurt him was the six walks.

Hernandez mishandled Roberts sacrifice putting in the sixth to put runners on first and second with no outs, but three straight fly outs by the Padres didn't produce the tying run. Despite leaving the game with a lead and a near standing ovation by the Washington fans, Hernandez angrily tossed his glove into the stands after being pulled by Frank Robinson.

No word yet if subsequent negotiations with the fan who caught the glove to give it back were successful.

Hensley struck out the side in the sixth, making Padres fans wonder why the team needs to go with Pedro Astacio over this guy? Hensley went an inning and a third, using a brutal sinker to get his K's.

"Its something we have discussed he's doing a great job, but with Seanez and Hammond out we need some help in the bullpen," Bochy said on potentially using Hensley as a starter.

Linebrink was called upon next, getting the first two batters to strike out, before Loretta made an error on Preston Wilson's soft grounder to second base. Linebrink came back to strike out Castilla.

In the top of the eighth, the Padres got the leadoff runner on base for the sixth time in the game, and this time Young was able to capitalize with a single just out of the reach of first baseman Johnson to tie the game once again at 5-5.

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