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Matt Kamlet, CBSLA.com
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The bitter sight of Zack Greinke being led off the field by trainer Sue Falsone at Petco Park was still sitting there, achingly imprinted on the minds of Dodger fans.
The all-too-recent memory of the ball club plummeting into the desolation of last place was all but mocking the boys in blue, after an eight-game losing streak, and an apparent inability to produce from the plate.
Had it been a pitching issue, attributing the club’s struggles to Greinke’s trip to the disabled list would have been all too easy. But the pitchers, for the most part, were not the cause of the team spiraling to a place that no one expected them to be at any point this season.
After to Greinke’s performance on Wednesday against the Washington Nationals, maybe it is just easier to say that the team just feels more confident when Zack is back.
Greinke (2-0) threw 83 pitches, struck out four, and gave up a single run through 5.1 innings of work in his return to the mound as the Dodgers beat the Nationals 3-1 to win their second consecutive series.
Greinke opened the game with a 1-2-3 inning, retiring the side in order, showing Dodger fans, as well as the Nationals, why he felt he was ready to return a month before originally expected.
Matt Kemp extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a double in the first inning. Adrian Gonzalez, batting in the cleanup spot, brought Kemp home on a single to center.
There had been question of whether or not management would allow Greinke to swing the bat, being as he has a metal rod in his left collarbone.
The answer to that came in the bottom of the second inning when Greinke singled to right to score Andre Ethier, giving the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.
Ryan Zimmerman, who has led the Nationals with his bat throughout the series, prevented the Dodgers from busting the game wide open in the third inning. Andre Ethier walked to load the bases with two outs in the inning. Scott Van Slyke forced a full count from Ross Detwiler, before connecting for a line drive. The ball was hit well enough, but was speared by Zimmerman at third base, who seemed to grab the ball above his head in mid-flight.
In the fourth inning, Adam LaRoche, who spoiled what was about to be Clayton Kershaw’s seventh career complete-game shutout on Tuesday night, hammered a ball deep to right-center and made it a one-run ball game.
Wilson Ramos connected to left later in the inning, going 2-for-2 on the night. But when he reached first base, he bent down and looked uncomfortable, and he promptly left the game.
Among the many great aspects of Kershaw’s near complete-game shutout on Tuesday night was that the bullpen had the opportunity to rest — which came in handy, since they were used heavily on Wednesday night.
Greinke was pulled after recording the first out in the top of the sixth inning. J.P. Howell came in relief, and struck out a batter before giving up a walk.
Manager Don Mattingly immediately pulled Howell after the walk, and went with Matt Guerrier, who gave up a single to Kurt Suzuki.
For the moment it seemed as though the bullpen might put Greinke out of contention for the win, but Guerrier got former Long Beach State Dirtbag Danny Espinosa to ground out to end the inning. Greinke could be seen walking around the dugout with a grin on his face at the inning’s conclusion.
Mattingly later fanned the flames as far as recent talk about just who is the Dodgers’ closer.
Paco Rodriguez was lifted after giving up a two-out walk to Denard Span in the seventh inning, and Kenley Jansen came in relief. Jansen barely got the feel for the mound before A.J. Ellis fired an absolute cannon shot to second base to gun down Span, who was attempting to steal second.
Then Zimmerman happened again.
With no one out and a runner on first in the eighth inning, Jansen gave up a single to Zimmerman, which moved Eury Perez to third.
Jansen recovered by getting LaRoche to fly out to left, just shallow enough to hold the runner at third. Then he struck out Ian Desmond.
It was all up to Kurt Suzuki. The count was 1-1 when Suzuki swung and connected — and flew out to right field to end the inning.
Jansen’s achievement in preventing the Nationals from scoring, despite the tying run being 90 feet away from home plate with no outs, no doubt creates more support for him to return to the closer role.
Brandon League continued his ninth inning struggles, giving up a leadoff single to Espinosa.
Roger Bernadina then stepped up to the plate, but all eyes were on the on-deck circle, where Bryce Harper was warming up to bat with a bandage on his chin.
However, League got Harper to ground out to first for the second out of the inning, and Span grounded out to short to end the game.
League recovered to earn his ninth save of the season.
The Dodgers begin a six-game road trip, starting in Atlanta on Friday.