SAN DIEGO – Miguel Olivo raced home to score on an error in the ninth inning and the NL West-leading San Diego Padres rallied to beat the Washington Nationals 2-1 to climb back to .500.

The Padres (74-74) took two of three from the Nationals, who fell 41/2 games behind Houston in the wild-card race. San Diego maintained a 51/2-game lead over San Francisco and reduced its magic number for clinching the division to nine.

Olivo, whose baserunning blunder thwarted a rally in the seventh, beat out an infield single to shortstop against Joey Eischen (2-1) leading off the ninth. Eischen hit Robert Fick with an 0-2 pitch and both runners advanced on Dave Roberts’ sacrifice bunt. Eischen’s throw to second baseman Deivi Cruz carried into the baseline and deflected off Roberts as Cruz tried to make the catch, allowing Olivo to score.

Akinori Otsuka (2-6) pitched the ninth for the win.

The Padres tied the score at 1 in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Khalil Greene, whose grand slam on Saturday night capped a five-run, two-out rally in the ninth inning of a game the Padres won 8-5 in 12 innings.

Mark Loretta started the rally with a leadoff single against Gary Majewski but was forced at second on a bunt by Eric Young. Brian Giles walked and Joe Randa was hit by a pitch to load the bases and bring up Greene, whose fly to center scored Young. Majewski made way for Eischen, who got pinch-hitter Ramon Hernandez to ground out to end the threat. Hernandez won Saturday night’s game with a three-run homer in the 12th.

Nationals right-hander Esteban Loaiza, who grew up in Tijuana, Mexico, and went to school across the border in Imperial Beach, pitched seven scoreless innings against his hometown team.

He got out of a jam in the seventh thanks to some bad baserunning by Olivo. Xavier Nady and Olivo singled with none out and advanced on pinch-hitter Fick’s sacrifice. Roberts grounded out to first and Olivo was doubled off second to end the inning. Olivo was running on contact and got hung up when he saw that Damian Jackson, who was pinch-running for Nady, didn’t leave third.

Loaiza allowed seven hits, struck out five and walked none.

San Diego’s Pedro Astacio held the Nationals to three hits and one run in seven innings in his first start since coming off the disabled list.

Astacio allowed Cristian Guzman’s sacrifice fly in the second inning. It scored Preston Wilson, who led off with a single, stole second and went to third on Vinny Castilla’s fly to right.

Astacio then shut down the Nationals for the next five innings, including retiring the side in order three times. He allowed only two baserunners after the second, both on walks, and both runners were erased on double plays.

Notes: Hernandez didn’t start because manager Bruce Bochy plans to play him every game of a seven-game road trip that starts Monday night in Colorado. … Loretta snapped an 0-for-26 skid with his eighth-inning single.

AP-ES-09-18-05 1911EDT

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