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AP - Sports

Tightness in his right forearm has twice kept Stephen Strasburg from making a career-high 29th start, but he might finally get the chance Saturday night.

Strasburg will try to boost the Washington Nationals' faint playoff hopes by helping them improve to 9-0 at home against the Miami Marlins this season.

Strasburg (7-9, 2.96 ERA) was shut down after his 28th start last season despite Washington being in the middle of a pennant race en route to an NL East title. The right-hander looked like he would easily pass that mark until suffering his ailment Sept. 12 before a scheduled start against Philadelphia the next day.

Strasburg was slated to pitch Thursday's series opener against Miami but felt tightness in his forearm the day before while playing catch.

"He wanted to pitch (Thursday night)," manager Davey Johnson told the team's website. "It was my judgment. I said there's no need. I don't want a guy that has a little discomfort in his arm the day before he pitches. All these games are important, but his well-being is more important than him starting today."

Strasburg will make his first start since a 6-4 win in Miami on Sept. 8. He gave up four runs and four hits over six innings while striking out seven.

Strasburg is 2-2 with a 7.56 ERA in his last six starts against the Marlins after going 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in his first seven.

A strong outing from Strasburg against Miami is certainly something the Nationals (83-71) could use in the NL wild-card race. They trail Cincinnati and Pittsburgh by five games with eight contests remaining.

Washington, winner in 12 of 14, only kept pace Friday with an 8-0 drubbing of Miami (56-98) as Cincinnati rallied for a 6-5 victory in 10 innings in Pittsburgh. The Nationals outhit the Marlins 11-2 in their victory, and Denard Span went 2 for 5 with two RBIs the day after his 29-game hit streak ended.

"We're not mathematically out of it yet," pitcher Jordan Zimmermann said. "So we've got to keep fighting until the end, and hopefully one of these other two teams tank."

The Marlins, losers in 12 of 15, will send out Tom Koehler (3-10, 4.51), who is 0-4 with a 4.84 ERA in his last eight starts. The right-hander, however, pitched eight scoreless innings in a 1-0 loss at the New York Mets on Sunday.

"As far as consistent quality, today was definitely up there," he told the team's website. "There have been some times where I felt like I had thrown the ball maybe like that for a couple of innings. Today was the first time I was able to push there and keep on going."

Koehler didn't fare nearly as well in his only start against Washington. He was tagged for six runs in five innings in a 9-0 loss Aug. 29.

Jayson Werth went 2 for 3 against him with a three-run homer and Bryce Harper had a two-run shot.

Koehler enters this matchup after cutting a finger on his left hand while lifting weights.

"He should be fine," manager Mike Redmond said. "It's his glove hand."

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