The sign of a great pitcher is the ability to win regardless of the circumstances. Clayton Kershaw has been on quite a role in that department, even when he hasn't had his best stuff.
The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner pitched eight innings to win his 10th straight decision, Andre Ethier hit a two-run homer and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 on Friday night in a matchup of the top two teams in the National League.
"There wasn't anything pretty about it," Kershaw said. "I was a little bit erratic. I didn't have great fastball command, but I was fortunate to battle through eight — which was big. Getting two runs early was huge."
Kershaw (2-0) allowed three hits, struck out six and walked one. He became the first Dodgers pitcher to win 10 consecutive decisions since Ramon Martinez from August 1995 through May 1996.
"It was a tough ballgame," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "Kershaw made a lot of quality pitches. He crowded right-handed hitters all night. We weren't able to hit the ball real hard."
Kershaw hasn't lost since last Aug. 7 at Arizona, when the Diamondbacks beat him 4-3 with two-run homers by Kelly Johnson and Cody Ransom. The 24-year-old lefty also joined Ed Roebuck and Orel Hershiser as the only Dodgers to win 12 decisions in a row at home since the franchise moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958.
"This is a good place to pitch, so I definitely don't take that for granted," said Kershaw, whose home streak has spanned 16 starts with a 1.22 ERA. "Wins are nothing I can control, so I'm not worried about individual wins. The team had a lot to do with that."
Kenley Jansen pitched a hitless ninth for his first save of the season, but had to hold his breath until Danny Espinosa's bid for a tying home run landed just foul in right field. Espinosa eventually lined out to center field before Jansen plunked pinch-hitter Chad Tracy with two outs and struck out Jesus Flores to end it.
Ross Detwiler (2-1) allowed three runs and five hits over six innings before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter. The left-hander had allowed only one earned run in 16 innings over his first three starts, a homer by Cincinnati's Ryan Ludwick.
The Nationals, who allowed a major league-low four home runs through their first 19 games — and only one measly run by their starting pitchers in a span of 34 2-3 innings — fell behind 2-0 in the first when Ethier drove his fifth homer into the right-field bullpen following Matt Kemp's single.
"They are on fire. Hitters like that are carrying their ballclub," Johnson said. "We made mistakes to them. It was a curveball on the inside half to Ethier and he jumped all over it. He got ahead of Kemp, but you can't throw him down low. That's where Det kept throwing it."
Ethier leads the majors with 24 RBIs, one more than Kemp, who stranded two runners in scoring position when he grounded out against Ryan Mattheus to end the seventh.
"I'm going to try to keep pace with Kemp any way I can," Ethier said. "Obviously, that's what's expected of us and what we expect of ourselves. That's why Kemp and I are sitting 3-4 in the middle of the lineup, to be productive and get runs across. Other guys will pick each other up as the season goes on, but I think they're doing a good enough job themselves to get on base and score runs."
Kemp and Ethier opened the fourth with singles and both runners advanced on Kershaw's sacrifice bunt before Juan Uribe beat out a single to deep shortstop to make it 3-0. But the Nationals broke through against Kershaw in the sixth with a leadoff walk to Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche's home run into the right-field bullpen on an 0-2 pitch.
"They're a little bit depleted in their offense because of injuries, but they put some good at-bats together," Kershaw said. "I just hung a slider to LaRoche and he did what he was supposed to do with it."
NOTES: A moment of silence was observed in memory of former Dodger Bill "Moose" Skowron, who died Friday of congestive heart failure at age 81. ... The Dodgers recalled RHP Nathan Eovaldi from Double-A Chattanooga and optioned LHP Michael Antonini to Triple-A Albuquerque. ... Washington's three starting pitchers in this series — Detwiler, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez — all came in with 2-0 records and ERAs under 1.53. ... Before LaRoche's third homer of the season, no one on the Nationals' roster had hit more than two home runs — making them the only team with that dubious distinction. ... Ethier's homer was his first off a left-handed pitcher in 75 at-bats since his solo shot against San Diego's Josh Spence on July 10, 2011, at Dodger Stadium.