- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WASHINGTON | When Adam Dunn stepped to the plate for his final at-bat in what might have been his last home game as a member of the Washington Nationals, the crowd of 20,026 gave him a standing ovation.

And the big fella got, well, a bit emotional.

“You can’t even put that into words. That’s the first time in a long time” — and he drew out the “O” so it sounded like “loooooong” — “I’ve had that feeling of, I wouldn’t call ‘em nerves, but I would call ‘em jitters,” said Dunn, who can leave as a free agent in the offseason. “I haven’t had that in baseball in a long time. And tonight, for some reason, I had it, and it was a pretty cool feeling.”

Even after Dunn struck out for the fourth time in four plate appearances Wednesday night during a 7-1 loss to the NL East champion Philadelphia Phillies in Washington’s 2010 home finale, the fans sent the slugging first baseman back to the dugout with a rousing cheer.

“I thought it would be like any other game,” said Dunn, who leads the Nationals with 38 homers and 103 RBIs. “And when I started hearing that stuff, I tried to hit every ball as far as I possibly could.”

The Phillies managed to do just that plenty of times despite using a lineup filled with reserves. Ben Francisco hit two of Philadelphia’s four homers, all off Ross Detwiler (1-3).

“All of us are excited to get in there,” Francisco said. “We’ve been sitting for a while, so it’s good to get in there and contribute.”

Only two regulars started for Philadelphia, which is 95-64 and already was assured of home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Manager Charlie Manuel gave key cogs such as Ryan Howard and Chase Utley the night off.

Mike Sweeney and Francisco hit consecutive homers to open the second inning. John Mayberry added a three-run shot in the fourth, and Francisco’s second homer of the night, a two-run drive, came an inning later.

Joe Blanton (9-6) gave up one unearned run in seven innings. He’s expected to be used as a reliever when the Phillies open the playoffs at home next Wednesday; they’ll use Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in a three-man rotation.

“If he doesn’t start, he’s very valuable in the bullpen because he throws strikes and he’s gutty,” Manuel said.

Blanton’s take on shifting roles?

“It’s fine with me,” he said. “We have three No. 1s, three horses to go to, and that’s a great thing to have.”

Sweeney was making his 11th start of the season at first base, and his homer was his eighth. He is heading to the playoffs for the first time in his 16-season big league career, the longest drought among active players.

Francisco made his 17th start of 2010 in left field and hit his fifth and sixth homers. It was his fourth multihomer game in the majors, first with the Phillies. Francisco also made a sliding catch of a sinking shot to end the fifth inning.

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and center fielder Shane Victorino — both expected to be in the starting lineup next Wednesday, when Philadelphia opens its NL division series at home — went a combined 0 for 8 before leaving in the seventh.

Manuel plans to use most of his regulars in the last regular-season series, a three-game set that begins Friday at the Atlanta Braves, who are chasing the NL wild-card spot.

“I’m not playing Howard or Utley tonight, but I’m going to play them in Atlanta some,” Manuel said. “How much, I don’t know yet, but I might play them the biggest part of the games there. We’re going to play some front-line players there.”

Washington, meanwhile, is three road games away from its offseason, and what happens with Dunn — re-signing him or replacing him — will be significant.

“We need to get a four-hole hitter that plays first base. We understand that. We want it to be Adam Dunn,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “But if it isn’t, we need to address that situation.”

Said Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman, whose locker is next to his pal Dunn’s in the Nationals Park clubhouse: “Obviously, if you lose him, you lose a big piece. … He wants to stay here, and I think everyone wants him to stay here. It’s just going to be a matter of whether they can work something out.”

NOTES: The Nationals drew a total of 1,828,066 fans in 2010. That’s an average of 22,569 — up about 135 per game from 2009 — at their 40,000-plus-capacity ballpark. … Mayberry made his first start this season and hit his first homer since June 30, 2009. … Victorino will leave the team on Thursday’s off day to fly home and be with his wife, who is about to give birth. Victorino wasn’t sure if he’d miss Friday’s game.


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