LOS ANGELES -- In a battle between the National League's best, the Dodgers came out on top Friday night.
Behind eight solid innings from Clayton Kershaw, and a two-run home run by Andre Ethier, the Dodgers beat the Nationals, 3-2, in front of 44,807 at Dodger Stadium. Both teams are now tied for the National League's best record at 14-6.
"Every game is important. The Nationals are playing really well, and are a lot like us," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Every out and run is important. It is fun to play in games like this."
Ethier got the Dodgers on the board in the first inning, belting a two-run shot to left field with Matt Kemp on first. It was his fifth home run on the year, and it marked Ethier's Major League-leading 24th RBI of the season.
Los Angeles has now outscored its opponents 21-5 in the first inning this season, and improved to 12-3 when scoring first.
"They are on fire. Hitters like that are carrying their ballclub," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said of Kemp and Ethier. "We made mistakes. It was a curveball on the inside half to Ethier, and he jumped all over it."
Los Angeles scored another run in the fourth, when Kemp and Ethier led off the inning with singles, before a sacrifice bunt by Jerry Hairston and a infield single to shortstop by Juan Uribe scored Kemp from third.
With two hits in the game, Kemp raised his Major League-best batting average to .452, and he is tied with Texas' Ian Kinsler for the Major League lead in runs scored, with 21.
"We have to pick each other up as the season goes on, and I think guys are doing a good enough job of that to get on base and score," Ethier said. "We are playing defense, and a good team ballgame."
With the early run support, Kershaw cruised through the first five innings, highlighted by a four-pitch third inning.
However, after a walk to Jayson Werth in the sixth, Kershaw surrendered a two-run homer to Adam LaRoche that landed in the Nationals' bullpen. The blast cut the Dodgers' lead to 3-2.
While Kershaw had trouble at times with his fastball command, he was able to throw strikes and battle when he needed to.
Los Angeles' defense put Kershaw in a jam in the fifth, when back-to-back throwing errors by Dee Gordon and James Loney put runners on first and second with one out. The lefty then got the next two batters out though, squashing the threat.
"I was a little bit erratic and didn't have great fastball command," Kershaw said. "It wasn't pretty or easy, but we battled through and got a win."
Kershaw improved to 2-0 on the season, giving up two runs on three hits, while extending his career-long 10-game winning streak.
The win put him in some illustrious company, becoming just the 13th Dodger to win 10 or more consecutive decisions.
Remarkably, Kershaw has also won 12 straight decisions at Dodger Stadium, with his last home loss coming April 16, 2011, against the St. Louis Cardinals.
"Wins, for the most part, aren't something I can control. The team has a lot to do with it," Kershaw said. "The runs early are huge, and maintaining it throughout the game is huge. When you get early runs, it is important.
"A lot goes into it. It is a good place to pitch, probably the best. I don't take that for granted."
While Kershaw did get the win, Kenley Jansen made it interesting in the ninth to get his first save of the season. After getting Mark DeRosa to fly out to center field to begin the frame, Danny Espinosa hit a ball down the right-field line that landed right next to the foul pole.
Had it stayed fair, Espinosa would have tied the game. Instead, Jansen got Espinosa to fly out to center later in the at-bat, and then struck out Jesus Flores to secure the win.
"I just kept hoping it would hook," Mattingly said. "We need to scratch more runs out of the rest of our lineup, but we really seem to be getting jumps on teams.
"It would be nice for my health, though, if we would add on a run here or there. We seem to insist on one-run games."
Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.