WASHINGTON -- It was a mostly forgettable seventh inning for the Padres on Wednesday at Nationals Park. They allowed three runs on two hits, two walks and a hit batter. One of the walks forced in a run. They used three pitchers in the inning.
Yet, for all their shortcomings, one pitch -- with a major assist from the Nationals' Yunel Escobar -- bailed them out in a big way and helped the Padres preserve their 6-5 victory.
Left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski, who had just allowed a two-run single to Bryce Harper to cut the lead to one run, fell behind Escobar with three straight balls. Ryan Zimmerman, who hit a grand slam on Tuesday, waited on deck, and the crowd of 29,332 was quickly working itself into a tizzy.
But instead of taking a strike, Escobar took a hack at a 3-0, two-seam fastball from Rzepczynski, beating it in into the ground toward third baseman Yangervis Solarte, who started an inning-ending, 5-4-3 double play.
"I got lucky 3-0, he topped it over and I got the double play when we needed to," Rzepczynski said. "I was upset I gave up the hit to the lefty, but at the same time glad I was able to get that double play."
Rzepczynski, who faced the Nationals during his three seasons with the Cardinals (2011-13), wasn't entirely surprised that Escobar didn't take a strike.
"I've seen these guys for a while," he said. "I didn't want to give in 3-0, but in key situations, [the Nationals] swing 3-0. So I wanted to throw a sinker down and away and he took a big swing and rolled it over.
"It worked out. But you don't normally see that too often."
It was sort of a gamble leaving Rzepczynski, a left-handed specialist, in to face the right-handed-hitting Escobar. After all, righties were hitting .313 in 32 at-bats this season against Rzepczynski.
"He hasn't faced many right-handed hitters," said Padres interim manager Pat Murphy. "We felt like he could get a ground ball there and it worked out. Great execution there by him."
Joaquin Benoit and Craig Kimbrel worked the final two innings without drama, as Kimbrel tossed a perfect ninth inning for his 36th save of the season.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.