Nationals rely on Strasburg against Marlins

Stephen Strasburg threw an eight-inning gem in his last trip to the mound. The only problem was he tried to go nine innings.

Strasburg returns to the hill on Wednesday night to pitch the second contest of a three-game series between the Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins.

The right-handed Strasburg has a victory and three no-decisions in four starts this month, though he seemed on track to secure a victory last Thursday versus the Chicago Cubs.

Strasburg held the Cubs to a run and four hits through the first eight innings, taking a 4-1 lead into the ninth. However, he allowed a run-scoring single with two outs before serving up a game-tying two-run homer to Donnie Murphy, ending the starter's night.

Washington recovered to win in 13 innings.

"What a great effort. I know he was upset, but he pitched a heck of a ball game," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said of Strasburg, who struck out eight batters and is 6-9 with a 3.00 earned run average in 25 starts this season.

The 24-year-old is 5-3 with a 3.77 ERA in 11 career meetings versus the Marlins, but lasted just two innings the last time he faced them on July 12 in Miami. Strasburg was charged with a season-high seven runs in the loss.

The Marlins counter with 23-year-old Henderson Alvarez, who has lost back-to- back outings and is coming off a 6-0 setback to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday.

Alvarez, in his 10th start of the season, was charged with a season-high five runs on seven hits and two walks over five innings. He also hit two batters and fell to 2-3 with a 3.86 ERA on the year.

The righty faced Washington for the second time in his career on July 14 and did not get a decision, giving up two runs over 6 2/3 frames.

Looking to keep a playoff push rolling, the Nationals won for the seventh time in 10 games by taking last night's opener 2-1. Both runs came in the first inning, with a Jayson Werth ground out bringing home Ryan Zimmerman one batter before Ian Desmond smacked an RBI single.

The pitching staff took it from there. Starter Ross Ohlendorf hurled five-plus innings, his lone mistake a solo homer served up to Christian Yelich to lead off the sixth.

"We did a good job of getting some runs early against a good pitcher," Ohlendorf said. "The bullpen did really well today. To give them four innings like that and shut them out ... I wish I pitched deeper, but they did a great job picking me up."

In doing so, the Nationals pulled within seven games of the Cincinnati Reds for a wild card spot.

Yelich went 2-for-4 for the Marlins, who were held to just four hits and have lost six of their last seven.

Miami starter Nathan Eovaldi tossed six innings, allowing two runs on eight hits. The right-hander also fanned six batters in his fifth straight loss, having not won since July 12.

"I felt comfortable, but I usually run into some trouble in the first inning," Eovaldi said. "I felt like I located my pitches for the most part, but they put the ball in play and got some hits."

The Nationals have won seven of 10 versus the Marlins this season, including a three-game sweep in Washington to begin the season.