Padres deal Nationals another heartbreaking loss

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Three dramatic victories in four games tells
the San Diego Padres that, despite their mediocre record, they're
doing something right.

Miguel Olivo raced home on an error in the ninth inning and the
NL West-leading Padres rallied to beat the Washington Nationals 2-1
Sunday to climb back to .500.

The Padres (74-74) took two of three from the Nationals, who
fell 4½ games behind Houston in the wild-card race. San Diego
maintained a 5½-game lead over San Francisco and reduced its magic
number to nine for clinching baseball's worst division.

"Shoot, hopefully these two miracles in one week, and then
today, battling back, will springboard us into just playing good
team ball," said Robert Fick, who was part of the winning rally.

"We know we have some hope here," Fick said. "We know we have
the right guys. We just have to execute and we did that."

The string of thrilling wins started Wednesday in San Francisco
with a 5-4 victory in 10 innings. Sean Burroughs hit a tying,
two-run double with two outs in the ninth, and Brian Giles won it
with an RBI single in the 10th.

On Saturday night, the Padres trailed 5-0 with two outs in the
ninth before tying it with a five-run rally capped by Khalil
Greene's grand slam. Ramon Hernandez won it in the 12th with a
three-run homer.

After getting seven strong innings from right-hander Pedro
Astacio, the Padres won Sunday with small ball.

Olivo, whose baserunning blunder thwarted a rally in the
seventh, beat out an infield single to shortstop against Joey
Eischen (2-1) leading off the ninth. Eischen hit Fick with an 0-2
pitch and both runners advanced on Dave Roberts' sacrifice bunt.
Eischen's errant throw to second baseman Deivi Cruz carried into
the baseline and deflected off Roberts as Cruz tried to make the
catch, allowing Olivo to score.

"I was just running as hard as I could, wanting to make them
make a play, and the next thing you know, the ball was in my chest
and my arms," Roberts said. "I just wanted to make a good bunt
and put some pressure on them. It was bang-bang, and fortunately it
got by him."

Asked if there was more pain losing the last two games the way
the Nationals did, manager Frank Robinson said: "I guess more
disgust because we had two games won and then we lost them."

Eischen blamed himself.

"I hit a guy in the back with an 0-2 fastball and I screwed up
a bunt. The throw was a little off. I screwed it up, not the

Akinori Otsuka (2-6) pitched the ninth for the win.

The Padres tied the score at 1 in the eighth on a sacrifice fly
by Greene.

Mark Loretta started the rally with a leadoff single against
Gary Majewski but was forced at second on a bunt by Eric Young.
Brian Giles walked and Joe Randa was hit by a pitch to load the
bases and bring up Greene, whose fly to center scored Young.

"It hasn't been pretty for us," Fick said. "We still have a
chance to finish with a decent record and put away all the talk
about us being .500 or under .500 and just getting this thing right
going into the playoffs."

Nationals right-hander Esteban Loaiza, who grew up in Tijuana,
Mexico, and went to school across the border in Imperial Beach,
pitched seven scoreless innings against his hometown team.

He got out of a jam in the seventh thanks to some bad
baserunning by Olivo. Xavier Nady and Olivo singled with none out
and advanced on pinch-hitter Fick's sacrifice. Roberts grounded out
to first and Olivo was doubled off second to end the inning. Olivo
was running on contact and got hung up when he saw that Damian
Jackson, who was pinch-running for Nady, didn't leave third.

Loaiza allowed seven hits, struck out five and walked none.

"Losing last night, losing today makes it a little bit of a
downer," Loaiza said.

Astacio held the Nationals to three hits and one run in seven
innings in his first start since coming off the disabled list.

He allowed Cristian Guzman's sacrifice fly in the second inning.
It scored Preston Wilson, who led off with a single, stole second
and went to third on Vinny Castilla's fly to right.

Astacio then shut down the Nationals for the next five innings,
including retiring the side in order three times. He allowed only
two baserunners after the second, both on walks, and both runners
were erased on double plays.

Game notes
Hernandez didn't start because manager Bruce Bochy plans to
play him every game of a seven-game road trip that starts Monday
night in Colorado. ... Loretta snapped an 0-for-26 skid with his
eighth-inning single. ... Guzman was 8-for-21 with three doubles, a
triple and a homer on the six-game trip.