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Surging Nationals edge Marlins

The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals aren't ready to give up on their playoff hopes despite facing long odds.

"We are taking steps in the right direction," shortstop Ian Desmond said the Nationals beat the Marlins 4-3 Wednesday for their eighth win in 11 games. "I like the way we are playing. It is at the right time."

Washington (67-65) remained seven games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the race for the second National League wild card.

"We are taking steps in the right direction," said Washington starter Stephen Strasburg, who pitched just two scoreless innings before exiting after a rain delay.

Desmond's seventh-inning inning broke a tie a 3-3 tie. The decisive hit came after Miami reliever Mike Dunn (3-4) issued an intentional walk to hot-hitting Jayson Werth to face Desmond with two outs and runners on first and second.

"Fortunately I got the job done," Desmond said. "I am in a good spot mentally right now (at the plate)."

It was the third hit of the game for Desmond, who also had three hits in Washington's win Tuesday. Desmond is now 13-for-28 (.464) in his past seven games. He leads major league shortstops in with 54 extra-base hits, though his past six hits have been singles.

Werth crushed a long solo homer, his 20th of the year, to center to tie the game at 3 as he led off the sixth against Arquimedes Caminero. Werth is hitting 65-for-171 (.380) since July 1, the top average in the majors during that period. He has 12 homers and 39 RBIs in that 50-game span.

"This is the Jayson I remember playing against in Philadelphia," Desmond said, referring to Werth's former team.

The Marlins took a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth on an RBI single by Jeff Mathis. Giancarlo Stanton tied the game earlier in the inning with a leadoff homer against Washington reliever Ryan Mattheus, who gave up his first home run of the year in his 24th outing. It was the 17th homer of the year for Stanton and his 12th overall at Nationals Park in just 25 games.

The Marlins fell to 49-82, officially clinching a losing season, though that was most likely sealed when the team began the year 1-9.

Drew Storen (4-2) picked up the win for Washington, which used six pitchers. Tyler Clippard pitched a scoreless eighth, and closer Rafael Soriano threw the ninth for his 35th save.

Mathis golfed a low outside pitch from reliever Craig Stammen over the fence in left to cut the Washington lead to 2-1 in the fifth.

Steve Lombardozzi, getting a rare start at second, had an RBI double in the second to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead before a rain delay.

Strasburg was at the plate with an 0-1 count when the game was delayed by rain in the last of the second.

Strasburg was pulled after the 72-minute delay, as manager Davey Johnson sent up Scott Hairston to pinch-hit. Hairston struck out. Stammen came on in the top of the third.

Stammen went three innings and allowed the one run before Anthony Rendon pinch-hit for him in the last of the fifth.

Marlins starter Henderson Alvarez was replaced after the rain delay by Ryan Webb, who gave up an RBI double to Bryce Harper in the third as the Nationals took a 2-0 lead.

Webb allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings.

"Webb came in for us and did a nice job," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "We are used to pitching and hitting on pins and needles where each run is huge. I thought we swung the bats better tonight."

Each team finished with 10 hits. The Marlins got two hits apiece from Justin Ruggiano, Ed Lucas, Donovan Solano and Mathis.

NOTES: Johnson posted his 1,353rd career win, passing Chuck Tanner for 28th on the all-time list. ... Marlins rookie RHP A.J. Ramos has 73 strikeouts in 56 innings, tops in the major among rookie relievers. He struck out one in one inning Wednesday. ... In the series finale Thursday, Washington LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-6, 3.66) will face RHP Tom Koehler (3-8, 4.45) of the Marlins.
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