WASHINGTON -- It was the 13th inning of a game approaching 4 1/2 hours in length, and Ivan Rodriguez was heading home, representing the tying run.
As Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake charged the bouncing ball and prepared to try to preserve his team's slender lead by getting Rodriguez at the plate, one thought ran through the mind of rookie reliever Carlos Monasterios.
"I was begging," Monasterios said. "I was praying he would make the right throw."
That he did. Already having contributed two homers and three RBIs, Blake put a finishing flourish on his fine afternoon by throwing out Rodriguez for the second out in the 13th after Russell Martin drove in the go-ahead run in the top half Saturday, and the Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 4-3.
Martin, the catcher whose throwing error in the eighth helped Washington score the tying run, applied the tag on a close play at the plate.
"I was just trying to get rid of it quick, and I didn't have a good grip on it at all," said Blake, who was out of the starting lineup Friday and responded in his return with his first multihomer game since June 2008.
Monasterios (1-0), Los Angeles' seventh pitcher, threw the final 2 2/3 innings to earn his first victory in the majors. In the 13th, he allowed pinch-hitter Rodriguez's single, then Nyjer Morgan's double, putting runners at second and third with one out. But first came the grounder that set up Blake's throw, then Cristian Guzman flied out to left to end it.
As for whether Rodriguez should have been trying to score there, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said: "It was a good gamble. Blake made a good play. ... If the throw is just a hair off, he is going to be safe."
The score had been stuck at 3-all since Washington tied it in the eighth, aided by Martin's error while trying to stop Adam Kennedy on a steal attempt at second base. Kennedy took third, and he scored on Morgan's single off closer Jonathan Broxton.
Both of Blake's deep shots came off Craig Stammen, who went seven innings. Stammen produced two hits of his own at the plate: a double in the fourth, and a two-out RBI single in the sixth.
"Lightning struck twice today," Stammen said.
His second hit tied the score at 2-2, and the next batter, Morgan, hit a ball over left fielder Xavier Paul's head. As Stammen chugged toward home, Morgan headed for third base, hoping to draw a throw there instead of one to the plate.
"Nyjer's very fast," Stammen explained, "and I'm not really that fast."
But Morgan was thrown out on a play scored 7-4-5 to end the inning. The umpire standing at home immediately ruled that Stammen did not cross the plate before Morgan was tagged, meaning the run didn't count.
"I was being aggressive," Morgan said, "but not intelligent."
Batista got two nice plays from right fielder Willie Harris. First, Harris jumped against the wall while backpedaling to catch a deep drive by Martin leading off the 11th. Harris tumbled to the warning track, knocking his cap off, and appeared to limp a bit when he got back to his feet. After the game, he said he was going to have an MRI exam on his right knee.
Harris made another nice grab for the second out in the 13th, this time charging forward and diving to snare a sinking liner off the bat of Reed Johnson.
But Martin came through soon thereafter, moving Los Angeles within a game of .500. The Dodgers had lost three of four entering Saturday and, as starter Clayton Kershaw acknowledged: "Wins aren't coming easy for us."
The Nationals, meanwhile, dropped to 9-9, failing in their bid to climb two games above .500 for the first time since they were 3-1 in April 2008.
"You're not going to win them all, but we can take some positives out of this," Stammen said. "We're just as good as they are."
After the game, the Dodgers put RHP Vicente Padilla on the 15-day DL because his upper right forearm muscle is bothering him. Torre said RHP John Link would be brought up from the minors for Sunday's game. Torre didn't say who would start in Padilla's spot against the Mets on Tuesday. ... Washington's starting lineup was missing 3B Ryan Zimmerman (right hamstring) and C Rodriguez (lower back tightness, although he was supposed to get the day off, anyway).