Josh Willingham admires his 10th inning home run in
Sunday's 4-3 win over Baltimore (Max Cook/

The Washington Nationals will embark for their three-series west coast road trip with a winning record after all.

Josh Willingham hit the third pitch offered from Baltimore Orioles reliever Cla Meredtih into the visitor's bullpen, delivering a 4-3 win in the tenth inning.

"He's a professional hitter," manager Jim Riggleman said after the game.  "He squared it up as good as you could right there and kinda saved the day for us."

It was the Nationals first win in extra innings this season against three losses.

Meredith was pressed into service unexpectedly as O's closer Alfredo Simon injured what appered to be a hamstring covering first base for the first out in the tenth.  Simon got the out, but had to be lifted.

Meredith had the luxury of having all the warmup pitches he would need to get ready, but he probably wishes he'd left the fastball he gave Willingham in the bullpen.

The split crowd of 27,535 had plenty to cheer about on both side of the aisles in the late innings however.

Willingham's heroics were necessary because Nats closer Matt Capps gave up two runs in the top of the ninth to allow the game to become tied.  It's the first time this season Capps has failed to convert a save opportunity, making him 17 out of 18 in save chances.

Capps struck out Ty Wigginton to start the inning, then gave up an infield single to Luke Scott and an opposite field double to Adam Jones over the outstretched glove of Adam Kennedy at first.

It's entirely possible that Jones' shot would have stuck in Adam Dunn's glove, were the taller first baseman in the game at the time.

Regardless, the double put runners at second and third with just one out.  Capps induced catcher Matt Wieters to ground out to second, but that brought home a run and moved the other runner up to third.

Light hitting Julio Lugo (.211) then singled, driving in Jones with the tying run.

Willingham's homer, however, made a winner out of Doug Slaten (2-0), who pitched a perfect tenth inning.

(Max Cook/

In fact, all the Nats relievers--except for Capps--did their jobs today.

Drew Storen, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard combined for two and two-third scoreless inning, with just two baserunners in the time frame.

Starter John Lannan did an admirable job as well.  He went five and one-third innings, allowing just one earned run on two hits and three walks, striking out three.  He threw 53 of his 88 pithces for strikes.

Riggleman indicated in his press conference that this was the type of game that perhaps next time out, as Lannan continues to strengthen the elbow that forced him miss a start earlier this season, he'd have let his starter finish up the inning he started.

"It was kinda that either/or situation.  I had a lot of confidence in Storen to match up pretty good there, but that's one of those ones maybe a week from now we'll let [Lannan] stay out there and pitch."

It's a delicate battle plan to expect your bullpen to give you more than three innings of perfect work to get the win, but it's a recipe that Riggleman has used all season.  Today, it was his closer that couldn't get the job done.  Each man has faltered at some point, save for Storen who has made just a handful of appearances.

But the Nats got the big hit when they needed it today, and everyone can get on the plane to San Francisco feeling good about taking two of three from the Orioles.

The Nationals have their first scheduled day off in 20 days on Monday, and losing a game like today would have festered during the long flight and off-day.  As it is, the Nats can take today's momentum and let it build.

(Max Cook/

Washington faces the San Francisco Giants for a three-game series starting Tuesday night at 10:15 pm.  Livan Hernandez (4-2, 1.62) gets the ball for the Nats; the Giants are undecided on Tuesday's pitcher at the time of this post.

NATS NOTES:  Roger Bernadina drove in three with a bases-loaded triple in the first inning off O's starter Kevin Millwood.  It was his lone hit in four trips in the game.

Millwood went six and one-third innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits and one walk, striking out a season-high eight.

Five of the Nats 10 strikeouts were called strike threes by homeplate umpire Mike Winters.

The Nats walked just once against the 10 Ks.  They left nine men on base and were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Drew Storen not only pitched 1.2 innings, but also collected his first MLB hit in his first plate appearance, singling cleanly over shortstop in the bottom of the sixth.  He was stranded.

Cristian Guzman went 2-for-5, raising his average to .345.  He is hitting .443 in May with three doubles, one triple and eight RBIs.