By his standards, Andre Ethier had a fairly quiet first half. Not horrific, just not up to his standards.
He has willingly played every outfield position without complaint, but a .268 batting average, five home runs and 28 runs batted in in the first half were not exactly what he was hoping for at the All-Star break.
But Ethier, once the most clutch of Dodgers’ hitters, started the second half in a big way, hitting a ninth-inning home run against closer Rafael Soriano to lead the Dodgers to a 3-2 victory over the Nationals on a humid Friday in Washington.
That allowed the Dodgers to continue at the hot pace that has captured the rest of baseball’s attention. They have won 18 of their last 23 games.
For Ethier, it was his first home run since June 11. He is three for three all-time against Soriano.
The Nationals started the scoring, pushing a run across in the second inning against Ricky Nolasco via outfielder Bryce Harper.
Harper led off with a double and advanced to third base when Jayson Werth lined out to right fielder Yasiel Puig. As is his wont, Puig tried to throw out the tagging Harper.
Harper then trotted home with the game’s first run when Nolasco unleashed a wild pitch.
The Dodgers, though, almost immediately jumped back in front. Adrian Gonzalez singled with two outs against Stephen Strasburg and then Hanley Ramirez lined a two-run home run.
It was the ninth home run for Ramirez in 40 games this season, second on the team to Adrian Gonzalez, who has 14.
The Nationals loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth inning but Nolasco pitched out of trouble. But Washington put together singles by Ryan Zimmerman, Werth and Ian Desmond to tie it in the sixth.
Strasburg, who gave up seven hits in the first four innings, retired the last 11 consecutive Dodgers he faced. He left for a pinch-hitter after holding the Dodgers to two runs in seven innings.
Nolasco allowed the leadoff hitter to get on base in five of his six innings but for the most part was able to pitch out of trouble in his third start for the Dodgers. He went 5-1/3 innings and gave up two runs, eight hits and two walks.
After the Ethier home run, Jose Dominguez, Paco Rodriguez and Ronald Belisario pitched in relief until Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth inning for his 10th save.