Something unexpected happened Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.
Baseball’s worst team gave the Dodgers a game.
Well, at least for four or five innings.
Then the Washington Nationals went back to being the Washington Nationals, as their bullpen collapsed magnificently in a seven-run sixth-inning for the Dodgers, who went on to claim a 10-3 victory to become the first modern-day team in major league history to win its first 13 home games.
The Detroit Tigers won their first 12 home games, and that was in 1911.
In the days and hours leading up to the first game of their two-game set against the Nationals, most of the Dodgers appeared to be paying little attention to the streak.
“I’m sure they’re aware of it,” Manager Joe Torre said. “I’m sure they’d like to be the team to own the streak by themselves, or, like the 1911 Tigers, not be around when it’s broken.”
The Dodgers took their 23rd decision in their last 26 games at Dodger Stadium, dating to Aug. 21, 2008. Starting from the day Manny Ramirez became a Dodger -- Aug. 1, 2008 -- they are 31-7 at home.
With four games remaining in a season-long 11-game homestand, the Dodgers extended their lead in the National League West to 6 1/2 games and their winning streak to seven games. They improved their record to 21-8.
The Nationals dropped to 7-18, worst in the major leagues, and are 2-11 on the road.
But they had a chance.
The Dodgers were held to a run in the first four innings, after which the score was tied, 1-1.
The home team’s only run in that span came in the first inning when Rafael Furcal singled, moved to third base on a double by Orlando Hudson and scored on a double-play grounder by Andre Ethier.
Meanwhile, Clayton Kershaw was laboring.
He gave up only one run but lasted only five innings, as he rapidly ran up his pitch count to 99. He walked three.
The 21-year-old left-hander wasn’t as sharp as he was five days earlier, when he matched San Diego Padres ace Jake Peavy over seven scoreless innings.
“I think he realized he didn’t have to strike people out to win,” Torre said of that game.
Not on Wednesday.
He had to strike out Austin Kearns to get out of the first inning, when he loaded the bases by giving up hits to Cristian Guzman and Ryan Zimmerman and walking Elijah Dukes.
Zimmerman’s single extended his hitting streak to 24 games, the longest in the majors this season.
Kershaw surrendered the tying run in the third inning, which Guzman led off with a double to left field. Guzman eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Zimmerman to tie the score, 1-1.
But Nationals starter Daniel Cabrera handed the Dodgers the fifth, walking Ethier with the bases loaded to force in the go-ahead run.
An inning later, the game took a turn for the ridiculous for the Nationals.
Cabrera issued consecutive walks to Casey Blake and pinch-hitter Mark Loretta to load the bases and was pulled from the game in favor of Mike Hinckley.
Hinckley served up a run-scoring single to Furcal that widened the gap to 3-1.
With the bases loaded, Hinckley walked Hudson to force in another run. Ball four was like something out of a bloopers video, sailing high over the head of catcher Jesus Flores and hitting the screen behind the plate.
Hinckley was removed from the game but the deluge continued, as Ramirez hit a two-run double and James Loney slapped a two-run single. A force out by Russell Martin knocked in the seventh run of the inning.