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Padres knock out Nationals with stunning comeback

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Maybe the San Diego Padres found the spark they
need to finally secure the NL West title.

Behind dramatic home runs by Khalil Greene and Ramon Hernandez,
San Diego scored its most unlikely victory of the season by beating
the Washington Nationals 8-5 in 12 innings Saturday night.

"It just doesn't get any better than this," Padres manager
Bruce Bochy said.

Greene hit a grand slam to cap a five-run, two-out rally in the
ninth inning, and Hernandez had a three-run homer in the 12th
inning to give San Diego its second win in seven games.

For a team that leads the NL West with a sub-.500 record and has
struggled to distance itself from the rest of the mediocre
division, the win was important.

"It was unbelievable, especially coming this time of the
year," Hernandez said.

With the victory, San Diego maintained its 5½ game NL West lead
over San Francisco, a 2-1 winner over the Los Angeles Dodgers, and
reduced its magic number to 10.

The Padres are 73-74, the latest in a season that a team has led
a division with a losing record. San Diego has 15 games remaining.

The loss was especially tough for Washington, which fell 3½
games behind Houston in the NL wild-card race with 13 games left.

"We took a huge step backward when it looked like we would gain
ground," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said.

Greene led off the 12th with a single, tying his career high
with his fourth hit. Pitcher Woody Williams pinch hit and struck
out when his bunt attempt with two strikes went foul. Dave Roberts
followed with a bloop single to right, with Greene stopping at
second. Hernandez then homered on the first pitch from Jon Rauch
(1-4) for San Diego's first walkoff homer of the season.

"When I hit it, I had no doubt it was gone," said Hernandez,
who hit his 10th home run and was in the center of a prolonged
celebration at home plate.

"I messed up," Rauch said. "I hung a curveball, plain and
simple."

Scott Linebrink (7-1) pitched two perfect innings for the
victory.

The Padres have struggled offensively, scoring three runs or
less eight times in 14 September games coming into the game. But
San Diego was able to overcome a 5-0 deficit in the ninth to tie
the game on Greene's grand slam off Washington closer Chad Cordero.

Greene hit a 1-0 fastball into the left-field stands and was
mobbed by his teammates as he approached the San Diego dugout. It
was Greene's 12th home run.

"I'm not a big believer in one or two games making a difference
in a season," Greene said. "But it was a moment that I'll look
back on as the biggest moment of the season."

Eric Young started the rally with a leadoff walk against Jason
Bergmann, the first of four Washington pitchers in the ninth. After
Bergmann struck out Ramon Hernandez, he was replaced by Joey
Eischen, who got one out before allowing a single to Xavier Nady.
Travis Hughes came in and allowed Joe Randa's RBI single.

Cordero, the major-league leader with 46 saves, replaced Hughes
and walked Mark Loretta before giving up Greene's grand slam.
Pinch-hitter Ryan Klesko ended the inning with a deep fly out to
center.

Cordero has blown seven save chances.

"I just went out and blew it again," Cordero said. "I tried
to get the ball away from the plate. It came back over and he made
me pay for it."

The Padres' comeback ruined six shutout innings thrown by Hector
Carrasco, who was one out away from his first career win as a
starter. Carrasco allowed just three hits and Washington took a
four-hit shutout into the ninth inning.

Carrasco, starting for only the third time in 559 games, allowed
one runner to reach second base. He struck out three and walked
one.

It was Carrasco's second straight start after filling in for
John Patterson, who fell ill before Tuesday's game against the New
York Mets. Carrasco started on late notice Tuesday and did not
receive a decision after giving up two runs on three hits in four
innings.

Nick Johnson homered and drove in two runs and Preston Wilson
hit a solo homer for the Nationals.

Adam Eaton started for the fourth time since coming off the
disabled list with a strained right middle finger. Eaton allowed
four runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. The right-hander struck
out five and walked two.

Game notes
Johnson hit his 14th homer leading off the second inning
and Wilson hit his 24th homer to lead off the sixth and give the
Nationals a 4-0 lead. ... Before this season, Carrasco's only other
start came with Boston when he pitched two innings on Oct. 1, 2000.
... Greene hit his first career grand slam and it was San Diego's
first in the two-year history at Petco Park.