WASHINGTON -- If this had been a normal week, Washington manager Frank Robinson would have pinch hit for laboring pitcher Ramon Ortiz with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth inning of a three-run game.
But the Nationals had played abnormal baseball the previous two nights, with scores of 18-9 and 8-7 draining the bullpen. Robinson let Ortiz bat, and the pitcher struck out in what proved to be the pivotal moment in Friday night's 3-2 loss to the San Diego Padres.
"If I had the full team, the full bullpen, there's no hesitation. It's not a hard decision," Robinson said. "But you make the decision by the personnel you have available to you. I just couldn't do it then, not at that time in the game."
Adrian Gonzalez had three hits, including a home run, and Padres won their third straight. Woody Williams (4-1) pitched 5 1/3 innings for the win, but the three strikes everyone will remember most were the ones to Ortiz.
The Padres were leading 3-0 at the time, and Williams had just walked weak-hitting Damian Jackson to load the bases with the No. 9 spot up next. Even though Ortiz had just struggled through a bad inning -- and even though he has only seven career hits -- he was allowed to bat because the relievers had been forced to work a total of 17 1/3 innings Wednesday and Thursday.
It nearly worked. Ortiz pulled Williams' first pitch foul by about an inch down the left-field line. Ortiz thought he had a three-run double: "It was very close," he said.
"Everybody was holding their breath," Nationals shortstop Royce Clayton said. "He's not Babe Ruth by any means, but to hit that ball and have it go foul by inches is kind of tough. He pitched his heart out. We just couldn't get any runs. They say it's a game of inches, and that represented itself tonight."
Two pitches later, Ortiz flailed badly at strike three. Alfonso Soriano then flied out to left to leave the Nationals scoreless. Robinson's gamble didn't pay off.
"You don't second-guess Frank," Clayton said. "He manages a lot with his gut, and it would have made him look like a genius if that ball stays fair."
The sequence was enough to tip the balance in favor of the Padres, who scored on Gonzalez's 13th home run -- a solo shot to deep right-center in the fourth -- and added two more runs in the fifth. San Diego improved to 17-11 in one-run games.
"That seems to be the story of all of our games," said Gonzalez, who was coming off a 1-for-10 performance during a three-game series in Philadelphia. "Seems like they're all one- and two-run games."
Ortiz (6-7) lasted into the seventh inning, allowing nine hits and walking four before he was finally removed with two outs and two on after a season-high 122 pitches.
Williams allowed two runs and six hits before leaving in the sixth. Cla Meredith, Scott Linebrink and Trevor Hoffman shut out the Nationals the rest of the way. Hoffman pitched the ninth for his 23rd save in 24 chances.
The Padres wasted several opportunities to put the game away comfortably. Josh Bard and Gonzalez hit RBI singles in the fifth, but Vinny Castilla hit a comebacker for a fielder's choice with one out and the bases loaded, and Josh Barfield flied out to right to end the inning.
San Diego failed to score in the seventh despite getting runners on second and third with two outs, and the Padres ran themselves out of the eighth inning by attempting a double steal that ended in a 2-4-2-5-3-6-5 rundown.
Washington's runs came in the sixth, with the help of a misplay by the Padres.
Jose Guillen's fisted single to shallow left scored one run, then the bases were full with one out when Alex Escobar hit an apparent double play ball to third. Second baseman Barfield dropped the throw but picked up the ball and tagged out Robert Fick, who overslid the bag. A run scored on the play, making the score 3-2. Jackson struck out to end the inning.
"It was a nail-biter," San Diego manager Bruce Bochy said. "We play a lot of close ones. But the bullpen came in and did a nice job."
San Diego is a season-high six games over .500 for the third time this year. ... Williams has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his nine starts. ... San Diego's hitters started 0-for-8 against Ortiz, then went 7-for-11 with two walks over the next 13 batters. ... Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 10 games. ... Hoffman has the same number of save chances (24) as the entire Nationals staff. The difference is that Hoffman has converted 23, while Washington has made good on just 13.