Nats try to maintain NL East lead in Miami

The Washington Nationals will try not to lose more ground atop the National League East when they resume a three-game series tonight against the division-rival Miami Marlins in south Florida.

The Nationals had won three in a row and six of seven games until the Marlins rallied for a 5-3 win on Memorial Day. Washington was ahead, 3-1, until the Marlins plated three runs in the sixth and one more in the seventh for the final margin.

Jordan Zimmermann was saddled with the loss and was cruising until he allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings. He also homered at the plate.

"I thought we battled, we played a great game," said Nationals outfielder Steve Lombardozzi, who had three hits and a run scored. "It's tough to come back, getting in so late last night, but I thought we battled and we played real well."

Ryan Zimmerman drove in a pair of runs and Washington's lead atop the NL East dwindled down to 2 1/2 games ahead of both New York and Miami. The Nationals are 5-2 on a nine-game road trip and will send Edwin Jackson to the mound Tuesday. Jackson is 1-2 in nine starts this season and owns a 3.38 ERA in 58 2/3 innings pitched. He lost his most recent start, a 4-1 loss at Philadelphia in which he was reached for three runs in seven innings.

Jackson, a right-hander, is 0-1 in five road outings this season and 1-3 with a 7.17 ERA in five career games (4 starts) against the Marlins.

Miami owns an MLB-best 19-8 record in May and will resume a season-long 10- game homestand Tuesday.

In its Memorial Day win over the Nats, Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run homer and Logan Morrison added a solo shot for Miami, which is 5-3 so far on the residency and received run-scoring hits from both Hanley Ramirez and Chris Coghlan. Starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano allowed three runs on seven hits and fanned five over six-plus innings to even his mark at 3-3.

Stanton's two-run blast during a three-run sixth inning made the difference.

"The home run by Stanton lifted the team's spirits up, and I think after that things changed a little bit in the game," said Miami manager Ozzie Guillen. "I think the play in left by Coghlan was huge, it was huge. If that ball lands that changes the game completely."

Stanton owns 11 homers this month -- one off Dan Uggla's record of 12 home runs in May back in 2008. Gary Sheffield belted 11 home runs in the month back in 1996. Stanton entered the game batting .327 with 21 runs scored and 25 RBI.

Jose Reyes went 1-for-4 with a run scored and is riding an eight-game hitting streak at home. He owns a nine-game hitting streak overall.

Anibal Sanchez will try to stop a personal three-game slide when he takes the mound for the Marlins tonight. He took the loss in Thursday's 14-7 setback versus San Francisco and gave up a season-high five runs and seven hits in a season-low 5 1/3 innings. Sanchez fell to 2-3 with a 2.87 ERA in nine starts.

Sanchez is 0-2 in four home starts, but has a strong 7-0 record to go along with a 2.10 ERA in 18 career starts against the Nationals. He did not record a decision in a 3-2 loss at Washington back on April 21, when he tossed seven innings of two-run ball with eight K's.

The right-hander and Boston lefty Jon Lester are the only two active pitchers without a loss in 15-or-more starts against one opponent. Lester is 14-0 in 19 starts against Baltimore.

Washington won two games from Miami in a rain-shortened series from April 20-21 and has won five of the past seven meetings between the teams.