The Washington Nationals have a good chance at gaining ground in the wild card race when they start a four-game series versus the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park.
The Nationals are 5 1/2 games off the final wild card spot in the NL and will try to continue their recent dominance over the Marlins. They are 11-4 against Miami this season and have won six of the last seven meetings between the clubs.
Washington took two of three from the Atlanta Braves and was handed a 5-2 loss in Wednesday's series finale. Ross Ohlendorf was dealt the loss for giving up three runs in six innings, while Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper had an RBI apiece.
"We just can't afford to lose," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said afterward. "It's that simple. We just need to get back at it tomorrow."
Werth and Anthony Rendon each had two hits and Denard Span extended his career-high hitting streak to 29 games with a 1-for-5 effort. Span is hitting .374 with five doubles, two triples, two home runs and nine RBI during the streak, which is the longest in the majors this season and one game away from the team record set by Ryan Zimmerman.
Washington is still a dominant 10-2 in its last 12 games and will hand the ball to Gio Gonzalez on Thursday. Gonzalez is 10-7 in 30 starts with a 3.40 earned run average and had a personal three-game winning streak stopped in Saturday's 5-4 loss to Philadelphia. He allowed four runs and nine hits over six innings and the Nats had won his last four appearances.
Gonzalez has won both of his starts against the Marlins this season and is 3-2 in five starts with a 1.54 ERA lifetime in this series.
Miami halted a four-game losing streak and won for the third time in 13 tries with Thursday's 4-3 win in 10 innings at the Phillies. Ed Lucas led off the 10th inning with a home run and Giancarlo Stanton also went deep in the win. Lucas has now hit safely in nine of the last 10 contests.
Juan Pierre was hitless in his lone at-bat and is still even with Joe DiMaggio for 175th place on the all-time hits list with 2,215.
Brad Hand picked up the win with an inning of relief, Steve Cishek posted his 31st save and starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi allowed three runs -- two earned -- and four hits over five innings in the no-decision.
"It got a little hairy at the end, but we made it through," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said.
Redmond's club is 2-5 on an 11-game road trip against the NL East and will send Henderson Alvarez to the mound Thursday. Alvarez owns a 4-4 mark with a 3.97 ERA in 14 starts this season and has won two of his previous three trips to the hill, including Saturday's 3-0 win against the New York Mets.
Alvarez delivered seven scoreless innings at Citi Field, struck out five batters and did not issue a walk. He has no record and a 3.24 ERA in two starts against the Nationals this season, spanning 8 1/3 innings, and is 0-1 lifetime in three starts to go along with a 4.11 ERA in this series.