With Manny Ramirez sidelined, Casey Blake stepped up and slugged two homers. With Jonathan Broxton blowing a save, the rest of the bullpen stepped up with seven innings without allowing an earned run. That even included struggling lefty George Sherrill, who retired all four batters he faced.
Russell Martin overcame his eighth-inning throwing error with a clutch RBI single in the top of the 13th inning off Miguel Batista on Saturday to score Rafael Furcal, who said he feels like his old leadoff-hitting self with a single and stolen base.
And Rule 5 rookie reliever Carlos Monasterios -- unprotectable as the Dodgers' last rested arm available -- pitched the final 2 2/3 tense innings for his first Major League victory, an emotional 4-3 Dodgers win over the Nationals.
"It's early in the season, but that's a boost to our confidence," said Blake, swinging a fresh bat after getting most of Friday night's game off. "We need these types of wins. They build character and confidence in a team."
Particularly a team playing like it had neither.
"One of these tight, hard-fought wins will put us over the hump, and I hope this is the one," said Sherrill, who had allowed 16 baserunners in his previous 5 1/3 innings.
Martin's clutch go-ahead hit followed two at-bats in which he was robbed of hits, as well as his throwing error, which accounted for the unearned tying run that sent the game into extra innings. And Furcal was in scoring position after his eighth steal, having taken only a dozen last year.
"Last year I was not 100 percent [coming off back surgery], and this year everything is different," Furcal said. "Right now, I feel like my first year with the Braves in 2000."
Manager Joe Torre learned before the game that he had lost Opening Day starter Vicente Padilla to the disabled list due to forearm soreness -- just as he lost last year's Opening Day starter, Hiroki Kuroda, to the disabled list last April due to a strained oblique.
So Torre pointed out that the win was important, not only to avoid wasting Blake's two homers, but the six exciting and effective innings from starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who allowed 11 baserunners in six innings but wiggled away with only two runs scored; Washington stranded 15 to the Dodgers' six.
"It doesn't surprise me," Torre said of Kershaw's escape act. "He's young, but he's certainly growing. It was something special."
Even younger in high-level experience is Monasterios, who was pitching at Class A in the Phillies system a year ago, his fifth season at that level or lower. Called up to Double-A in the final week of the season, he was left unprotected by Philadelphia but caught the eye of Dodgers scout Ron Rizzi in the Venezuelan Winter League. Subsequently, the Dodgers had the Mets draft him from the Phillies and send him to Los Angeles in an arranged deal.
Monasterios made the Opening Day roster because the Dodgers couldn't send him to the Minor Leagues without losing him back to the Phillies, and they didn't really have anybody they were sure was better. Nonetheless, Torre has been reluctant to use Monasterios in pressure situations, a limitation that has contributed to the bullpen's shaky start.
"You talk about protecting him, and all of a sudden you throw him to the wolves," said Torre. "He responded very well."
Protecting Monasterios continued right down to Torre's final-inning strategy. With one out, the Nationals put runners on second and third on a single by Ivan Rodriguez and double by Nyjer Morgan. Torre could have walked Ian Desmond intentionally to load the bases and set up a double play by Cristian Guzman, but that also might have brought up slugger Adam Dunn after Desmond.
Instead, Monasterios pitched to Desmond, whose grounder was fielded by Blake. He threw home, and Martin barely tagged out Rodriguez.
Monasterios, 24, generally keeps his emotions in check on the field but was jumping up and down in the infield like a Little Leaguer when he got Guzman to fly to left and end the game.
"That's the correct way, no?" Monasterios asked. "I'm very excited and happy to be on this team right now. This experience will give me a lot of self confidence."
Torre used six relievers -- everybody but Ramon Ortiz, who pitched 2 2/3 innings on Friday night. Although Broxton -- making his first appearance in six days -- blew the save on an unearned run charged to Ramon Troncoso, Hong-Chih Kuo made his second appearance of one-third inning, Ronald Belisario pitched for the fifth time in the past seven games (including extended spring training) and Sherrill had his best outing of the year.
"It's been ugly," Sherrill acknowledged. "They stuck with me and gave me the time to figure it out, and I think I have. My confidence wasn't shaken. I knew something was missing, and it was a matter of pinpointing it and not ticking off Joe."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.