Nats, Marlins close set in Miami

The Washington Nationals target a series win this evening against the Miami Marlins in the finale of a four-game set in south Florida.

The Nationals have taken two of the first three tests of this series and are coming off Sunday's 4-0 triumph in which starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg threw six shutout innings and drove in a run. He also fanned seven batters and issued just one walk.

"That was one of the more impressive games (Strasburg) has pitched," Nationals manager Dave Johnson said. "I thought he used his fastball better and his location was better. He got in some jams that he had to work out of but that is the Strasburg I've grown to love."

Michael Morse, Steve Lombardozzi, Danny Espinosa and Strasburg each had an RBI for the Nationals, winners in seven of their last 10. The NL East-leading Nationals are three games ahead of Atlanta in the standings and in the midst of playing 14 straight games against division opponents.

Edwin Jackson gets the ball for Washington tonight and he has won four of his last five decisions. Jackson barely got by San Francisco his last time out in a 9-4 win on July 4, when he was reached for four runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Jackson, a right-hander, is 5-4 with a 3.73 earned run average in 16 starts this season and lost to Miami on May 29. In that 3-1 loss at Marlins Park, Jackson gave up two runs -- one earned -- in 6 2/3 innings. Jackson is only 1-5 with a 5.79 ERA in six career games (5 starts) in this series.

The Marlins have dropped four of five games and were done in by a poor effort on the mound by Ricky Nolasco. Nolasco permitted all four runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings to suffer the loss. He allowed two runs in the sixth for a 4-0 score.

"The big one I think was to Morse. I made the pitch, and it was just a little too much out of the reach of Jose (Reyes)," Nolasco said. "They just found the holes. I thought I was mixing it up pretty well and keeping it away from the barrel, but that is just the way the game goes."

Miami is 10 games behind the Nationals in the NL East and is hoping Carlos Zambrano can right the ship when he takes the mound Monday.

Zambrano is 0-4 with an 8.00 earned run average in his last six starts and previously toed the rubber in a 3-2 setback at St. Louis on July 7. He surrendered three runs and seven hits over five innings in that one to fall to 4-7 with a 4.20 ERA in 17 starts.

The fiery right-hander is in his first season with Miami and defeated Washington back on May 28 in a 5-3 decision, tossing six innings of three-run ball. He lost to Washington in a 2-0 defeat on April 20. In 17 career meetings, 14 of which have been starts, against the Nationals, Big Z is a solid 9-4 with a 3.26 ERA.

Miami and Washington have split eight matchups this season.