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Dodgers Ride Kershaw, Kemp and Ethier to Victory Over Nationals

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Top Deck of Dodger Stadium. (LAist/Jimmy Bramlett)
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A couple of months ago, an imagining of the top two National League teams would have probably entailed the Philadelphia Phillies, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers or Arizona Diamondbacks. But the Washington Nationals and the Dodgers? That's just plain silly talk.

Reality showed that in fact these two teams are the top two in the National League according to their records. And in this showdown it was the Dodgers who emerged victorious 3-2 on the backs of pitching of Clayton Kershaw and the bats of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.

"It's fun to play in games like this," Manager Don Mattinngly said noting the similarities on both teams.

"They're really a lot like us. They really go on pitching and they're not going to throw up a bunch of runs usually."

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But the Dodgers have something the Nationals don't have: Kemp and Ethier. Despite the Nationals coming into the game with a Major League-best 1.61 earned run average amongst their starters, Kemp and Ethier made sure to stomp that statistic into the ground.

After Nationals' starter Ross Detwiler got the first two outs in the first inning, Kemp stroked a single to left field.

"There's obviously situations when they're going to pitch around him to get to me or whomever is hitting around him that night," Ethier commented about his job in those moments. "You've just got to come through and make sure you make them think twice."

Ethier certainly did his job crushing a two-run homer to right field for the quick 2-0 lead.

"That 1-2 punch has been pretty special so far," Mattingly said. However Mattingly was wary about having to depend too much on the duo that has already recorded 45 RBI.

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"We need to scratch more runs out of our lineup. The one thing those two have done is get a lot of big runs for us."

Fortunately Juan Uribe came through in the fourth inning. With Ethier and Kemp on second and third, Uribe hit an infield single to the shortstop that scored Kemp for the insurance run. Yes, Uribe hit an infield single.

That combined with Kershaw was something quite special. Whether it was the Friday night fireworks or the Aaron Harang strikeout special, 44,807 were on hand to witness Kershaw's eight innings of work allowing two runs on three hits and a walk. He tied Ed Roebuck (6/4/60 to 8/29/62) and Orel Hershiser (9/20/84 to 10/2/85) in winning his 12th straight home decision at Dodger Stadium.

However don't expect Kershaw to throw a parade.

"Tonight I was a little bit erratic, didn't have great fastball command tonight," Kershaw commented. "But I was fortunate to battle through there and get through eight which was big."

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The only real stinker on Kershaw's sheet was the two-run homer he gave up to Adam LaRoche in the sixth inning, but that's why you have Uribe, right?

Don't tell that to Mattingly though.

"It would be nice for my health if we could add on a run here or there," Mattingly joked. "We insist on playing one-run games."

That ticker really must have started fluttering in the ninth inning with Kenley Jansen in to save the game. With one out, Danny Espinosa hit a long fly ball that landed mere inches short of the right field foul pole.

"I just said, 'Oh shit,' in my head," Ethier said about that ball. "Actually I said it out loud."

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Jansen got Espinosa to line out to Kemp in centerfield enroute to his first save of the season.

An oddball statistic of the game: Kershaw led off the bottom of the third inning with an eight-pitch at-bat seeing twice as many pitches as the made in the top half of the inning.

The Dodgers now get to prepare for not only Nationals' starter Stephen Strasburg, but also the Major League debut of 19-year old outfielder Bryce Harper. In 20 games in Triple-A Syracuse, Harper hit .250 with a home run and three RBI. He played centerfield in 12 of those games making two errors, however he also did have three assists.