Dodgers’ Charlie Haeger improves slightly in loss

Well, at least it was better than last time.

Charlie Haeger said he didn’t view that as much of a consolation prize.

“A loss is a loss,” he said.

Haeger was charged with four runs (three earned) and five hits in 5 1/3 innings of the Dodgers’ 5-1 loss to the Washington Nationals on Friday night. The performance was a significant upgrade over the knuckleballer’s nightmare six days earlier, when he was pounded for seven runs and seven hits in three innings of a loss to the San Francisco Giants.

Manager Joe Torre was complimentary of his $411,000 fifth starter.

“He battles,” Torre said. “He escaped. It’s a little bit of a high-wire act, but you look up there and he’s only given up a run or two. Obviously, for five innings, he pitched well enough to keep us in the game, but we didn’t give him anything to work with.”

The Dodgers trailed, 2-1, until the sixth inning, when Haeger threw an 84-mph fastball that Adam Dunn crushed over the right-field wall. The long ball was worth two runs and increased the Nationals’ lead to 4-1 because it was preceded by a throwing error by Ronnie Belliard that allowed Cristian Guzman to reach base.

Dunn had already taken Haeger deep, hitting the facade of the upper deck in right field in the fourth inning.

Haeger, whose earned-run average dropped to 6.46, said he threw more fastballs than usual, especially early in the game.

“Early in the game, I didn’t have as good command with the knuckleball,” he said.

Haeger (0-2) acknowledged that he fell behind in the count too often.

“I don’t know what the ratio was,” he said. “It wasn’t very good. It needs to improve, that’s for sure.”

Paul replaces Ramirez

With Manny Ramirez placed on the 15-day disabled list, the Dodgers recalled outfielder Xavier Paul from triple-A Albuquerque to replace him on the active roster.

Paul also took Ramirez’s place a year ago, as he was called up on the day that Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for violating baseball’s drug policy.

Paul, 25, was batting .386 with three home runs and nine runs batted in in 57 at-bats for Albuquerque. Because Albuquerque was playing in New Orleans on Friday, Paul wasn’t able to get to Nationals Park in time for the game.

Garret Anderson started in left field, but Torre said he would also be mindful of dividing the workload so that Paul and Reed Johnson could get enough at-bats.

“With X coming here, I’m sure we’re going to have to blend him in instead of having a youngster sit on the bench,” Torre said. “We’ll do a lot of it by feel.”

Short hops

Matt Kemp was 0 for 4, ending his 11-game hitting streak. … Ramon Ortiz continued to be plagued by control problems in his ninth appearance of the season, as he walked four batters over the final 2 2/3 innings. Charged with one run and one hit, Ortiz dropped his ERA to 6.94. … The loss was the Dodgers’ 10th in their last 16 games in Washington.