Andre Ethier thought it was gone. Then he wasn’t so sure.
Leading off the ninth in a tie game, Ethier pulled Rafael Soriano’s two-strike slider and watched it sail through the oppressive, humid July air in the nation’s capital. It barely cleared the high wall, with right fielder Jayson Werth a helpless spectator for the deciding blow in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ back-from-the-break 3-2 win Friday night over the Washington Nationals.
"I was jogging at first," Ethier said. "I saw the outfielder get to the wall real quick, Werthy there. … When he did that I actually starting running real hard because I thought maybe it was going to go off (the wall)."
Hanley Ramirez also homered, and overnight sensation Yasiel Puig made a highlight throw and an even better catch for the Dodgers, who picked up where they left off before the All-Star break, winning for the seventh time in nine games and moving back above .500 to keep the pressure on the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.
"It’s weird how confidence can really sometimes sway things, and that feeling can really sway things either way," Ethier said. "It was really tough to get that confident, good feeling going. Hopefully we can keep it going."
The Nationals were hoping to make up ground in the NL East as they began a season-long, 11-game homestand. Instead, they lost for the sixth time in eight games to fall back to .500 and into third place, trailing the first-place Atlanta Braves by seven games.
They also resumed their habit of failing to support Stephen Strasburg, whose ERA dropped to 2.97 to go with his 5-7 record. The two-run homer by Ramirez accounted for the right-hander’s only runs allowed over seven innings, and he retired the last 11 batters he faced, but the Nationals failed to score when they had the bases loaded with none out against Dodgers starter Ricky Nolasco in the fourth inning.
"It’s very frustrating. You get a guy on the ropes like that, you’ve got to capitalize," said Chad Tracy, who hit a shallow fly ball for the second out in the inning. "We just didn’t get it done."
The Nationals were 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position. Manager Davey Johnson said he will move Bryce Harper back to the leadoff spot when Adam LaRoche returns. LaRoche missed the game with flu-like symptoms.
"We didn’t drive in hardly any runs," Johnson said. "We swung the bats pretty good, but it leaves a tough taste in your mouth."
Compounding things was the second ninth-inning homer allowed by Soriano (1-2) in three appearances.
"I don’t know how he hit the ball. … When I make good pitch and the hitter hit the ball good like tonight, there’s nothing I can do," Soriano said.
Ronald Belisario (4-5) faced only one batter to get the win, his 14th consecutive appearance without a run allowed. Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth for his 10th save.
Ricky Nolasco, in his third start with the Dodgers, gave up two runs over 5 1-3 innings against the same club that beat him 2-0 on opening day when he was with the Miami Marlins.
Puig made a stunning on-the-fly throw from right field to third base in the second inning in time to get Harper, who had tagged up from second, but umpire Eric Cooper signaled safe. The Cuban rookie also hung on to a foul fly from Anthony Rendon while crashing into the wall to end the seventh inning.
"Everything in the field, I catch," Puig said through a translator. "If it’s not a home run, I’ll catch it."
Notes: Dodgers CF Matt Kemp took some at-bats in a simulated game Friday. He’s been on the disabled list since July 6 with joint inflammation in his left shoulder. "We’ll see when I start playing," he said. "Practice is totally different from the game." … Los Angeles LF Carl Crawford batted leadoff after not starting for five straight games because of a sore back. … Johnson said he’s "not hopeful" that LHP Ross Detwiler will return from the disabled list and start Tuesday as originally planned. Detwiler has been dealing with a lower back strain and was feeling sore Friday after throwing on flat ground Thursday. Taylor Jordan will remain in the rotation until Detwiler is healthy.