There are learning curves, and there are learning first-pitch fastballs, and Jordan Walden, the Angels' hard-throwing but work-in-progress of a closer, got a bitter dose of both Monday.
One out away from victory, the 23-year-old right-hander blew his third straight save opportunity when he grooved a first-pitch fastball to Washington second baseman and local star Danny Espinosa, who crushed it for a score-tying home run in the ninth inning.
Walden had little time to stew. An inning later, he rushed onto the Angel Stadium field with his teammates to mob Maicer Izturis, whose one-out, bases-loaded single in the 10th gave the Angels a 4-3 win.
"I'm never happy about blowing a game," Walden said, "but the team won, and that's all that matters."
The Angels parlayed 16 hits, 15 of them singles, and four walks into only four runs, but they got big contributions from the bottom of the order, as Alberto Callaspo, Peter Bourjos and Bobby Wilson combined for eight hits and three runs batted in.
And all three had a hand in the winning rally, which Callaspo sparked with a one-out single against reliever Sean Burnett. Bourjos followed with his fourth hit, a ground-rule double to right field.
Davey Johnson, in his first game as the Nationals' interim manager, walked Wilson, the No. 9 batter, intentionally to load the bases.
Izturis atoned for his two errors at second base by stroking the fourth walk-off hit of his career to center to improve the Angels' to 10-5 in their last 15 games and 127-83 in interleague play since 2000, the best mark in baseball during that span.
"We definitely had to work for this one tonight," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Unfortunately, Jordan missed with one fastball, and Espinosa didn't miss it."
Angels starter Ervin Santana, who was looking to end a losing streak at four games, threw 93 pitches in eight innings and blanked the Nationals on one hit over his final four innings, but Scioscia did not send the right-hander out for the ninth.
Instead, he went to Walden, who gave up two runs, a hit and two walks in the ninth inning of a 3-2 loss in Dodger Stadium on Sunday.
Control wasn't the problem Monday night for Walden, who retired the first two batters before the home run pitch to Espinosa, the former Mater Dei High and Long Beach State standout.
With his parents, Vicki and Dan Espinosa, in attendance, Espinosa drove it out in right field for his 15th home run and a 3-3 tie.
"Oh man, it was right there on a tee for him," Walden said. "I was just trying to get ahead, and he was sitting dead red. Santana pitched his butt off. He deserved the win."
Santana lobbied to remain in the game. Did Scioscia think his starter was gassed, or did he want to throw Walden back into the fire?
"I think Ervin was about at his limits," Scioscia said. "It was a great outing. At that point of the game, it was enough for Ervin."
Santana gave up homers to Michael Morse in the second and Ryan Zimmerman in the fourth, and ranks second in the American League with 17 homers given up.
But Santana buckled down after the fourth, and the Angels rallied in the fourth, as singles by Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells and two-out run-scoring singles by Callaspo and Bourjos made it 2-2.
Callaspo singled with two out in the sixth, Bourjos reached on an infield single, and Wilson, the catcher who was making only his seventh start, lined a run-scoring single to left for a 3-2 lead.