WASHINGTON -- After intense rain and wind postponed Tuesday's series opener with the Nationals, the Dodgers returned to Nationals Park on Wednesday for a doubleheader under brilliant conditions. The bright spots ended there for Los Angeles, however, as the combination of a short start by Aaron Harang and an inefficient offense proved too much to overcome in a 3-1 loss to Washington.
The loss left the Dodgers two games behind the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot in the National League before the nightcap.
Harang dropped his second straight decision against a Nats offense that knocked at least one hit in the first seven innings. The right-hander lasted only 4 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits with two strikeouts and two walks. Harang has made five straight starts without pitching into the sixth inning.
"He was pretty good, really," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Obviously we've got to keep matching up through there to keep the game in control. ... Against the right-handed guys, he was able to keep the ball away from those guys, got some big outs to keep us in it. We just didn't do anything with it."
The Nats drove in their first three runs with small ball, relying on a combination of soft ground balls and a sacrifice fly. The first run came in the second, which Michael Morse led off with a single. Two batters later, a Danny Espinosa single advanced Morse, who scored on Kurt Suzuki's sacrifice fly to right.
"It's really a lot of the same," Mattingly said. "It's basically a 3-1 game, right? They get their run, we get back in it, they get two chances to get an easy run."
The Dodgers bounced back with a run of their own in the third, as Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp each singled with one out. After Adrian Gonzalez struck out, Hanley Ramirez singled to right, scoring Ethier. Kemp was ultimately stranded when Shane Victorino flied out to left.
Ramirez finished 2-for-4 with the RBI, boosting his stellar career totals against the Nats. Over his eight seasons, Ramirez is batting. 344 (146-for-425) -- the sixth highest mark among active players -- with 27 home runs against Washington.
Also notable were Victorino's two stolen bases, which raised his season total to 37, tying the career high he set in 2007 with the Phillies.
Nevertheless, despite hitting four doubles, the Dodgers stranded 11 runners and went just 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position. That inability to bring runners in aided Nats starter Jordan Zimmermann, who allowed only one run on six hits over six innings.
"The first couple of innings, I was coming on [seven] days' rest; I was a little out of sync," Zimmermann said. "The last three innings, I was much better. I was able to control everything. It's definitely good to get a win. The infield did a good job, played great defense.
Harang allowed one more run in the fifth after Bryce Harper tripled and scored one batter later on a Ryan Zimmerman groundout to second. After walking Adam LaRoche, Harang exited and right-hander Shawn Tolleson entered in relief.
Tolleson induced a double play from Morse to end the fifth, though he surrendered a run in the sixth after Ian Desmond led off with a double. Espinosa flied out to left and Suzuki singled, advancing Desmond to third and putting runners on the corners.
Left-hander Paco Rodriguez entered from the bullpen and allowed Desmond to score on a ground ball from pinch-hitter Tyler Moore, charging Tolleson with a run.
Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.