The Dodgers went into the All-Star break on a tear that carried them back into contention from the brink of a lost season. They picked up right where they left off on Friday night in the opener of a three-game series against the Nationals.

Andre Ethier smacked the go-ahead solo home run in the ninth inning, Hanley Ramirez kept up his hot hitting with a two-run shot, and the Dodgers pulled out a 3-2 victory to begin their abbreviated second-half schedule. Los Angeles, which once faced a 9 1/2-game division deficit, moved back over .500 and pulled within 1 1/2 games of the National League West-leading D-backs.

"Short second half, [68 games], but it's one where we know what our goal is, we know who we're chasing right there," Ethier said.

"If this team shows up focused every day and with a purpose and knowing what that purpose is, I think we hopefully can keep seeing special things."

The Dodgers welcomed back Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig and Mark Ellis on Friday, as all three used the break to recover from minor injuries. With Matt Kemp still two days away from coming off the disabled list, L.A.'s not-quite-full lineup produced just enough, although Crawford and Puig went a combined 0-for-8 in the top two spots of the lineup.

The big addition on Friday was the power-hitting version of Ethier. The two-time All-Star has hit as many as 31 homers in a season, back in 2009, but entered the day with five this year and none since June 11. In 30 games over that span, he hit .333 but without much thump.

That changed when Ethier led off the ninth inning against Nationals closer Rafael Soriano in a 2-2 game. Soriano (1-2) fed him a 1-2 slider that dove down and in below the strike zone, but Ethier golfed it into the first row of the right-field seats.

"I wouldn't say I was looking for it -- just a tough two-strike count approach right there," Ethier said. "I was up there just trying to battle, get on base any way I can, get that inning started for us. He left a slider high enough where I could put a good swing on it and get it up in the air and find a way over that fence."

Kenley Jansen struck out two in a perfect bottom of the ninth for his 10th save, capping 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief after Ricky Nolasco's start. Ronald Belisario (4-5) recorded the final out of the eighth, following strong efforts by Jose Dominguez and Paco Rodriguez.