Dodgers one win from clinching playoff berth after dropping Nationals

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals' 100th loss had plenty of elements from the first 99.

A starter who needed five batters to record an out and was gone before the fourth inning. An unearned run in an inning that included both an outfielder's error and a wild pitch. A comeback that went for naught because the bullpen took yet another loss.

All in a mind-numbing 3 hours, 41 minutes.

Rafael Furcal hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning Thursday night and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat Washington 7-6, making the Nationals the first NL franchise since the 1970s to post triple digits in the "L" column for the second consecutive year.

"I think it's disappointing if you lose more than half your games. Period," said reliever Ron Villone, who gave up the winning homer in the eighth inning.

"Where do you go? Where do you look? You look at yourself first. Tonight it was me. Other nights everybody has had a chance to pull through or do the right things, and unfortunately for us it hasn't been that way too much. Talent is one thing, and not getting it done is another."

Furcal's drive off Villone (4-6) was his fourth hit of the game. Ramon Troncoso (5-4) pitched 1 1/3 innings to get the win, and Jonathan Broxton finished for his 36th save. The win reduced the Dodgers' magic number to one for clinching a playoff berth, which would give them back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since 1995-96.

The Nationals, 59-102 last season, are the first NL franchise to drop 100 games in back-to-back years since the San Diego Padres, who lost 102 in both 1973 and 1974. In five seasons in Washington, the Nationals already have matched the number of 100-loss seasons the franchise had during its 36 seasons as the Montreal Expos -- and that includes the formative 110-loss season as an expansion team in 1969.

"It's a menagerie of things, stuff that didn't go right," reliever Jason Bergmann said. "I wasn't here all year for it, but there's a reason why some guys aren't here and there's a reason why some guys are here."

The Dodgers got going early, with singles from leadoff hitter Furcal, Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez off J.D. Martin producing a 1-0 lead in the first. Pitching coach Steve McCatty visited the mound, and it did no good: Matt Kemp hit Martin's next pitch over the wall in left-center for a three-run homer, giving him 100 RBIs on the year.

Comical moment: When Martin then struck out James Loney for the first out of the game, the fans broke out in mock applause. The people running the public address system, oblivious to Martin's rough start, cranked out "Can't Touch This."

It took a while, but the Nationals caught up. They scored three in the second off Vicente Padilla, but the Dodgers picked up one in the third. The Nationals scored one in the fourth; the Dodgers tallied their unearned run in the fifth. The Nationals finally tied it at 6 in the sixth with a pair of runs, showing the type of resiliency against a playoff-bound team that has interim manager Jim Riggleman feeling good about the future.

"That team's going to be popping champagne any day," Riggleman said, "and we're right there with 'em."

The odd-even streak was broken when the Dodgers didn't score in the seventh, but Furcal put Los Angeles ahead in the eighth. The Nationals had a chance to tie in the bottom half, but Willie Harris was thrown out at home by Ethier on Adam Dunn's two-out single to right.

The win was No. 92 for the Dodgers, but they won't save this one in any special vault. Not only did they blow an early lead, the pace was laborious: Padilla used up 103 pitches in five innings of work, and Martin threw 68 pitches in just three innings.

"This game," manager Joe Torre said, "was a very frustrating game."

Game notes
The last American League team with back-to-back, 100-loss seasons was the Kansas City Royals, who had three in a row from 2004-06. ... Riggleman said LHP Sean Burnett has not been the same since he injured his left thumb when he was hit by a line drive on Aug. 23. "I don't know how much more he'll pitch for us this year," Riggleman said. "He's still feeling some pain in there." ... Torre said 2B Orlando Hudson (shoulder) and 3B Casey Blake (left hamstring) could play, but he held them out. ... Torre said he would stay with a six-man rotation because his pitchers needed the work. ... Dodgers INF Jim Thome grounded out as a pinch hitter and is just 2 for 11 since his acquisition on Aug. 31. When asked before the game if he was disappointed he hadn't seen the real Thome, Torre replied: "I've seen the real Jim Thome. Unfortunately, it was across the field when I played against him."