WASHINGTON — In a game long overdue for a clutch hit, along came Hanley Ramirez with a man on second and none out in the 10th inning.
Ramirez already had two singles, but the other team pitched to him anyway. He raised his average to .390 and essentially won the game with an RBI double, the kind of clutch hit the Los Angeles Dodgers have been getting lately — and the sort of thing that has totally deserted the Washington Nationals.
Ramirez drove in Adrian Gonzalez, then scored on Andre Ethier's sacrifice fly in Saturday night's 3-1 win. Among the teammates congratulating Ramirez in the dugout was starter Zack Greinke, who wondered why the Nationals bothered to throw the Dodgers cleanup hitter a strike.
"He said: 'Even me, I would have walked you,'" Ramirez said.
As it turned out, Ramirez and Greinke — who raised his average to.406 — combined for half the Dodgers' 10 hits, but everything seems to be going right for a team that has won seven of nine and 19 of 24 to pull within a half-game of the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.
"We're winning all kinds of different ways as the momentum has started to go our way," manager Don Mattingly said. "We lost of lot of these early in the year, but now it seems like we're hanging in there, feeling like we're going to win these."
Ethier won Friday's game with a ninth-inning homer, and the first two games of the series yielded outcomes that kept the teams trending in opposite directions. The Nationals have lost seven of nine to fall below .500 and into third in the NL East. They went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position and are 2 for 21 with RISP in the series.
"I'm sure everyone is sick of hearing it, but it's got to turn around at some point," Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond said. "And if it doesn't, then we're going to keep on trying until we run out of time."
In seven of the 10 innings, the Nationals had legitimate scoring chances. They looked like a rock band that decided to play all of its worst hits on the same night. First inning: bases loaded, none out. Second inning: leadoff double. Third inning: pair of one-out singles. Fourth inning: leadoff single. Seventh inning: first and second, one out. Eighth inning: first and third, one out.
They failed to score each time. In the fourth, they managed three consecutive fielder's choices. Even Greinke is mystified.
"They should be scoring more than they have," Greinke said.
Greinke allowed the only Nationals run on his final pitch, when pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina hit an RBI single and was thrown out trying to advance to second, ending the sixth inning. The run ended Greinke's scoreless innings streak at 21, a Dodgers season-high.
Jose Dominguez, Paco Rodriguez, Ronald Belisario, J.P. Howell, Chris Withrow and Kenley Jansen did the rest. Withrow (1-0) pitched the ninth for his first career win, and Jansen handled the 10th for his 11th save as the Nationals fans, clearly running out of patience, booed their team off the field.
The Nationals wasted a solid outing from starter Gio Gonzalez, who matched a career-high with 11 strikeouts. Greinke, who had won five consecutive starts, scattered seven hits and remained one shy of 100 career wins.
The Dodgers keep winning even though rookie Yasiel Puig has cooled off. He is 0 for 9 with five strikeouts in the series.
"You see a little bit of confusion up there," Mattingly said. "They're starting to do some things to him — he seems to be caught in-between a little bit. He'll be OK. He just needs to catch his wind and clear his head a little bit."
Notes: Dodgers OF Matt Kemp (shoulder), eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday, hit in a simulated game for the second straight day and hit two home runs. ... Nationals LHP Ross Detwiler didn't complete a full bullpen session Saturday and will miss at least two more starts while dealing with a lower back strain. ... Washington 1B Adam LaRoche missed his second consecutive game with the flu.
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