How did it happen? As the poet Elizabeth Browning wrote -- "Let me count the ways":
Chad Billingsley took a no-hitter into the sixth but gave up a three-run homer to tie the game.
An outfield mix-up saw a ball drop untouched between Manny Mota and Matt Kemp in left-center that cost a run.
Orlando Hudson threw a simple double play ball away to allow another run and fell over the Washington first baseman and injured his wrist.
With runners at first and third in the eighth and the game tied, Russ Martin hit a laser directly to Adam Dunn who was holding James Loney on first base. He had only to step on the bag to double him up and end the inning.
The Dodgers tied the game in the ninth, loaded the bases with none out but Andre Ethier, Ramirez and Kemp all failed to drive in the tie-breaking run.
Reliever James McDonald forgot or ignored a base runner at second with one out in the last of the ninth and he stole third so cleanly he almost didn't have to slide and later scored the winning run.
The Dodgers were 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position and left 10 teammates stranded on the basepaths.
Throw in a pinch of Ethier being thrown out at the plate and Rafael Furcal getting picked off first base and you can see the whole thing could be titled "Nightmare in Washington."
Billingsley was not just the Billingsley of old, he was better.
He retired the first 11 Nationals he faced, striking out six of them before walking a pair in the fourth. His fastball was moving and his curve crackled.
Rafael Furcal crafted a run in the first when he singled, stole second, moved to third and scored on Ethier's ground ball. Russell Martin singled with the bases loaded and two out in the fourth but they were held to a single run when Ethier was nailed at the plate on a throw from right field.
James Loney singled in Ron Belliard, who had doubled, in the sixth for a 3-0 lead.
Billingsley walked the leadoff man in the last of the sinning, got a fielder's choice for the second out, then struck out his ninth batter.
Then with two on and two out, he made his only bad pitch of the night, leaving a spinning curve up and in on Ryan Zimmerman and he pounded it into the left field seats with stunning suddenness, tying the game at 3-3.
Billingsley retired the next Washington batter and left the game for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh. He had allowed just the one, crushing, hit, walked four and fanned nine.
Billingsley had won his first five decisions and had a 9-4 record and 3.38 ERA in 19 starts at the break. But since then, he'd gone 3-6 with a 5.49 ERA, and in September, it was even worse -- 0-2 with a 6.11 ERA.
"My offspeed was working well, I had command of the fastball, everything was working pretty well today," said Billingsley after the game. "It's a step forward, but one pitch was the difference. But I was happy. It was just a matter of going out there every day and trying to figure something out."
George Sherrill took over in the seventh, having allowed only nine hits to left-handers in 75 times at bat. But after an opening fly to left field dropped in from of Ramirez, he got Dunn on a high fly ball to medium left field. Kemp moved in on the ball, and Ramirez slid well behind him to back up the play.
Kemp moved over to catch the ball, pulled up and inixplicably looked around wildly, then made a frantic attempt to catch the ball but it fell untouched and Washington had runners at first and second.
Loney made a dramatic, over-the-shoulder sliding catch of a foul pop and threw to third base from his knees to keep the runners from advancing.
Then Elija Dukes bounced a ball to the right of second base. Gold Glover Orlando Hudson gloved it, easily stepped on second and threw -- well down the first base line. Loney dove and caught it, well off the base and threw home from flat on his back but the Washington runner scored all the way from second to break the tie.
Since rules forbid assuming a double play, it was called a fielder's choice and the run was tainted but earned.
If you are not sick yet, stay with me because it gets worse.
Leading 4-3 in the top of the ninth, Washington attempted to give the win back but Los Angeles politely declined the offer.
Hudson reached first when the shortstop threw wildly to first base but Hudson tripped over Dunn's feet at he tried to corral the ball and Hudson fell hard on his surgically-repaired wrist.
Jason Repko went in to run for him and Jim Tome rapped a pinch-hit single to center field. Juan Castro took over for him when he reached first base and Furcal coaxed a walk, loading the bases.
It looked for a moment like the Dodgers might yet overcome a game that looked like Jason in his hockey mask up to then with the middle of the Dodgers batting order coming up.
Ron Belliard tapped a soft ground ball to short and shortstop Christian Guzman made his second error of the inning, throwing wide of home plate and allowing Repko to score the tying run.
Then, with only a fly ball needed to allow the Dodgers to regain the lead, in rapid succession Ethier struck out on a curve well outside the plate and in the dirt, Ramirez tapped another ground ball to Guzman and this time he got it right for a force and home.
The Matt Kemp, with 98 runs batted in and on his birthday no less, hit a scorcher directly at Guzman to end he threat.
McDonald took over in the last of the ninth and allowed an opening single and the runner was bunted to second. McDonald ignored or forgot the runner and he stole third with ease. A walk set up a double play but pinch-hitter Pete Orr sliced a fly to right field that was deep enough to drive in the winning run.
As the cherry on the cake, Ethier let the ball bounce off his glove, the drive going as a sacrifice fly and an error. After the game, Orr, who knocked in the winning run in the ninth, described things perfectly" "It was bizarre" he said.
Although Colorado dropped a game to San Diego, the loss postponed the Dodgers (91-61) wrapping up a playoff spot, as their magic number remained at two.
They will send RHP Vicente Padilla (11-6, 4.52 ERA) to the mound tonight. In his last start Padilla lasted five innings and gave up four runs on eight hits. He is 4-4 with a 3.98 ERA in his career against Washington.
Washington counters with their hottest starter, RHP J.D. Martin (5-4, 4.21 ERA). In his last outing he pitched 5.1 innings and gave up two runs on seven hits to the Mets. Martin is second on the team in wins with five.
Score by Innings
Los Angeles 100 101 001-4
Washington 000 003 011-5
Dodgers ab r h bi ave
Furcal ss 4 1 2 0 .264
Belliard 3b 4 2 2 0 .268
Ethier rf 4 0 0 1 .279
Ramirez lf 4 0 0 0 .298
Kemp cf 4 0 0 0 .304
Loney 1b 3 0 2 1 .288
Martin c 4 0 1 1 .256
Hudson 2b 3 0 0 0 .286
Repko pr 0 1 0 0 .000
McDonald p 0 0 0 0 .000
Billingsley p 2 0 0 0 .185
Pierre ph 0 0 0 0 .314
Kuo p 0 0 0 0 .000
Sherrill p 0 0 0 0 .000
Thome ph 1 0 1 0 .248
Castro pr-2b 0 0 0 0 .288
Totals 33 4 8 3
Washington 29 5 5 5
Error- Ethier (6). 2B- Belliard (13).
RBI- Ethier (103), Martin (50), Loney
(90). S- Pierre. LOB- Los Angeles 10,
Washington 7. SB- Furcal (10). CS- Furcal
(6). PO- Furcal.
Dodgers in h r-er bb so era
Billingsley 6-0 1 3-3 4 9 4.07
Kuo 1.0 1 0-0 1 1 2.28
Sherrill 1.0 2 1-1 0 0 1.81
McDonald (5-5) 0.1 1 1-1 1 0 3.99
T- 2:59. Att- 18,635.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Casey Blake was held out of the game because of a leg injury. ...When LHP Clayton Kershaw starts Sunday at Pittsburgh, he’ll be on a to-be-determined pitch count, Los Angeles manager Joe Torre said. ...Matt Kemp was 0-for-4 his 25th birthday today, ending his hitting streak at 13 games. He is in line to become the first Dodger player in franchise history with 25 homers, 30 steals, a .300 average, and 100 RBI in a season. He left six men on base last night. ...Before tonight’s game, reliever Hong-Chih Kuo and infielder Chin-lung Hu met with a group of Taiwanese baseball-playing youth who are in Washington, DC as guests of the State Department. ...Earlier in the day, a group of Dodger players, coaches, broadcasters, and staff members visited Walter Reed Medical Center, where they spent time with the recovering soldiers and passed out Dodger items for them to enjoy for the fourth consecutive year. Among those who participated were General Manager Ned Colletti, Rick Monday, Andre Ethier, Jeff Weaver, Blake DeWitt, Mariano Duncan, Larry Bowa, and Tim Wallach. Wallach is with the big league staff after serving as the Triple-A Albuquerque manager this season and earning PCL Manager of the Year honors.