Andre Ethier powers Dodgers past Nationals, 3-2

WASHINGTON — About month and a half ago, Andre Ethier spoke to Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly and the hitting coaches about how he wasn't making solid contact with the ball.

In that meeting, the group set a modest goal for the then-slumping outfielder: Get one hit a day, build from there.

Soon after, the hits started coming again. And Friday night, in the Dodgers' first game back from the All-Star break, Ethier's long-dormant power returned, too.

BOXSCORE: Dodgers vs. Nationals

Ethier's ninth-inning home run was the difference in the Dodgers' 3-2 victory over the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, the team's 18th victory in their last 23 games. Earlier in the game, Hanley Ramirez hit the ninth home run of his injury-shortened season, a two-run shot in the third inning.

Ethier's home run was only his sixth of the season. Ethier, whose power numbers have steadily declined since he hit a career-high 31 home runs in 2009, had last hit a home run June 11.

"I still think that 30 home runs is there," Mattingly said.

Told of what Mattingly said, Ethier replied, jokingly, "If I do this year, that's a miracle."

Mattingly pointed out that some of Ethier's recent seasons were disrupted by injuries. Ethier broke a pinkie in 2010. He underwent a knee operation before the end of the 2011 season.

"You start making changes in your swing," Mattingly said.

That was why Mattingly and his coaches advised Ethier to think small. Even Friday, before he hit that home run, Ethier said Mattingly told him, "Get on base any way you can."

Ethier stayed on a down-and-in, two-strike slider from closer Rafael Soriano and sent it over the right-field wall.

"I don't know how he hit that ball," Soriano said.

The fact that Ethier was in position to win the game underscored how much these Dodgers have changed in recent weeks.

In his third start for the Dodgers, recently acquired Ricky Nolasco held the Nationals to two runs over 51/3 innings. With the Dodgers ahead, 2-1, in the fourth inning, the Nationals loaded the bases against Nolasco. The Nationals didn't score.

"I was trying to go pitch by pitch," Nolasco said.

The once-shaky bullpen held the Nationals scoreless over the final 32/3 innings.

Rookie Jose Dominguez pitched an inning. Left-hander Paco Rodriguez recorded four outs. Ronald Belisario retired Jayson Werth for the final out of the eighth inning. Kenley Jansen saved the game with a perfect ninth inning.

The improved form of the bullpen is what Mattingly attributed their increased success to in close games. The Dodgers have won 10 of their last 12 one-run games.

Belisario said the relievers have benefited from the setting of roles.

"It helps you concentrate more," Belisario said.

The Dodgers were also bolstered by the returns of Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Mark Ellis, who were all nursing minor injuries leading up to the All-Star break.

Puig was again the player who probably provided the paying spectators with what will be their longest-lasting memories of the night.

In the second inning, he made an on-the-fly throw from right field that appeared to nail Bryce Harper tagging up for third base. Harper was called safe by umpire Eric Cooper and later scored on a wild pitch.

Puig's catch to end the seventh inning was as spectacular, as he crashed into a wall after running down a slicing ball hit by Anthony Rendon in foul territory.

"If it's not a home run, everything stays with me," Puig said, smiling.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Group to Park District: Build DuSable Park

    Group to Park District: Build DuSable Park

    Where Lake Michigan meets the Chicago River is three acres of overgrown weeds and shrubs. It is referred to by some as a "ghost park" because it is hidden in plain sight.

  • Rejoice! Adele's new album is rumored to arrive this fall

    Rejoice! Adele's new album is rumored to arrive this fall

    There's a fire starting in my heart and it's making me realize it's been kind of a while since Adele released an album. Her last full-length "21" dropped in 2011 and I barely remember that year it feels so long ago. But now, there's some good news to fill our recently Adele-less lives and it's...

  • Chicago rappers Probcause and Saba team up on 'M.I.A.'

    Chicago rappers Probcause and Saba team up on 'M.I.A.'

    Welcome to RedEye's "Song of the Day," an ongoing feature where music reporter Josh Terry or another RedEye staff member highlights something they're listening to. Some days the track will be new, and some days it will be old. No matter what, each offering is something you should check out. Check...

  • Trump vows never to eat Oreos again, citing move from Chicago to Mexico

    Trump vows never to eat Oreos again, citing move from Chicago to Mexico

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump repeated his claim Tuesday evening that he would stop eating Oreos, citing the cookie maker's decision to close a plant in Chicago and move it to Mexico.

  • Let's talk about this new Justin Bieber song 'What Do You Mean?'

    Let's talk about this new Justin Bieber song 'What Do You Mean?'

    Don't get me wrong, Justin Bieber is still really embarrassing. He's the young pop star who recently said something only a 21-year-old would say, "Now being 21, and going through some hardships, I think you can hear that in my vocals." This is a guy who, last year at a charity gala benefiting AIDS...

  • Illinois lottery winners have to wait for payout due to budget impasse

    Illinois lottery winners have to wait for payout due to budget impasse

    After years of struggling financially, Susan Rick thought things were looking up when her boyfriend won $250,000 from the Illinois Lottery last month. She could stop working seven days a week, maybe fix up the house and take a trip to Minnesota to visit her daughter.