" Summary: Jeff Kent homered, Andre Ethier's sacrifice fly broke a seventh-inning tie and the Dodgers beat the Nationals for their third consecutive victory.
" Unsung hero: Chad Billingsley (9-4) won his second in a row, allowing three runs on eight hits in seven innings. The right-hander struck out six and walked one.
" Moving up: The Dodgers, just 12-14 in August, closed within 4½ games of the NL West-leading Diamondbacks, the closest they've been to the lead since before play Aug. 8.
" Figure this: The Dodgers turned double plays in the third, fifth and sixth innings.
" Quotable: "I go without a hit, but I was able to contribute. It reminds you that you can win close ballgames. It's going to set us up for what's to come." -- Ethier, who went 0-for-3
-- ESPN.com news services
Dodgers 4, Nationals 3
The Dodgers, just 12-14 in August, closed within 4½ games of the NL West-leading Diamondbacks, the closest they've been to the lead since before play Aug. 8.
"I go without a hit, but I was able to contribute," Ethier said. "It reminds you that you can win close ballgames. It's going to set us up for what's to come."
Chad Billingsley (9-4) won his second in a row, allowing three runs on eight hits in seven innings. The right-hander struck out six, walked one and was helped by three double plays.
"It was a tight game and we were able to push across a couple of runs," he said. "I try not to think too much -- just pitch my game and believe in myself."
Takashi Saito pitched a perfect ninth for the third consecutive game, earning his 36th save in 39 chances.
The Nationals tied the game at 3 on pinch-hitter Tony Batista's first homer of the season in the seventh.
"It was a great feeling, especially because he hit it to the opposite field, which is not his strength. He's usually a pull hitter," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "But Tony's been tremendous for us. It's too bad that it got lost in this ballgame, but it's nice to see that the power is there and that he continues to go out there and give us quality at-bats."
The Dodgers loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning when pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney doubled off Chris Schroder (1-1), Rafael Furcal walked and Juan Pierre reached on a fielding error by shortstop Felipe Lopez. He tried to scoop up the ground ball left-handed, but it jumped past him near second base.
"We're still dead-last in the major leagues in runs scored, so we needed our defense and our bullpen," Acta said. "Unfortunately, these last few days it hasn't been there."
Ethier followed with his sacrifice fly to center field off Ray King to score Sweeney with the go-ahead run.
The Dodgers loaded the bases a second time, but Luis Gonzalez grounded to second to end the inning.
The Nationals got a two-out RBI double by Dmitri Young in the first and a sacrifice fly by Brian Schneider in the fourth while losing their fifth in a row overall and fifth straight at Dodger Stadium.
Shea Hillenbrand's two-run single to left field in the second gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. His showy diving catch also robbed Schneider of a hit in the seventh. Kent hit his team-leading 17th homer into the left field pavilion with two out in the third for a 3-1 lead and his 70th RBI.
"The veterans you lean on, especially at the end of the year," Sweeney said.
Washington starter Jason Bergmann allowed three runs on six hits in six innings, walked one and struck out one.
"It was a battle the whole time," he said. "I really didn't have very good command of my off-speed stuff, but the fastball was there and when I needed it I could go to it. I'm disappointed about giving up the home run to Kent. I didn't want to do that, but I didn't have to hang a curve ball, either."
Pierre went 0-for-4 to end his 15-game hitting streak. ... The Nationals lost by one run for the second straight game. ... Batista had the third pinch-hit homer of his career. ... Acting couple Courteney Cox and David Arquette attended the game with team owners Frank and Jamie McCourt, who recently bought the Arquettes' Malibu home.