WASHINGTON -- Ian Desmond's RBI single in the seventh inning helped the Nationals edge the Marlins, 4-3, at Nationals Park on Wednesday night.
The Nats have won seven out of their last eight games and improved their record to 67-65, but they remain seven games behind the Reds for the second and final National League Wild Card spot. Cincinnati pounded St. Louis, 10-0, at Busch Stadium on Wednesday night.
"It's not going to be easy. We have a long way to go. We have to grind it out and win tough games and come from behind if we are going to give ourselves a shot in the end," Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth said. "No one said it was going to be easy. We have to keep going. We have to continue to play like this the rest of the way. That's fine. It is what it is. We made our beds, we have to sleep in them. But we have a chance, we have a heartbeat."
The score was tied at 3 when Washington scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh inning against reliever Mike Dunn. After Dunn walked Werth intentionally to put runners on first and second with two outs, Desmond singled to left field, scoring Denard Span.
"I don't even know if I hit a strike, to be honest," Desmond said. "Fortunately, it got the job done."
Desmond, who already has six hits in the series, said he wasn't surprised that Miami put Werth on base.
"It was probably the right move," Desmond said. "Actually, when I was up there, I thought they were going to walk both of us to get to [Adam] LaRoche with nobody warming up in the 'pen. It would have been a lefty-lefty situation."
It's really a testament to what Werth has done in the last two months at the plate. He is Washington's hottest hitter. Dating back to July 1, Werth is 65-for-171 (.380) with 12 home runs, 39 RBIs and a .471 on-base percentage.
"He is playing unbelievable. This is the Jayson I remember when he was playing [with the Phillies]," Desmond said. "He is grinding at-bats. He hits a lot of balls on the barrel. He is working the count."
The Nationals scored the first run of the night against right-hander Henderson Alvarez in the second inning, when Desmond scored all the way from first base on a double by Steve Lombardozzi. And then the game was delayed because of rain for one hour and 12 minutes.
The game resumed without the starting pitchers -- Alvarez and Stephen Strasburg. It turns out Strasburg couldn't return even if he wanted to, because he developed a stiff back. But with the short outing, manager Davey Johnson is thinking about having Strasburg pitch Sunday against the Mets on short rest.
"We'll see how he is tomorrow or the next day. He could come back Sunday," Johnson said. "So we have to see how we get through tomorrow and the next day."
With reliever Ryan Webb on the mound, the Nationals made it a 2-0 game in the third inning, when Ryan Zimmerman scored all the way from first base on a double by Bryce Harper.
Craig Stammen replaced Strasburg and allowed a run in three innings. The run came in the fifth inning when Jeff Mathis hit a home run over the left-field wall to make it a one-run game.
Right-hander Ryan Mattheus entered the game an inning later and allowed Miami to take a 3-2 lead. Giancarlo Stanton led off with a monster home run over the center-field wall to tie the score at 2. Four batters later, Mathis singled to left field, scoring Donovan Solano.
"I thought we swung the bats better," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "We still had a couple opportunities to score some runs that would've given us a little bit of a cushion. But we're pretty much used to playing and pitching on pins and needles, where every run is huge, and there we were again tonight in that situation."
But the Nationals would tie the score at 3 in the bottom of the sixth inning against right-hander Arquimedes Caminero, who allowed a leadoff home run to Werth, the outfielder's 20th dinger of the season.
The winning pitcher was right-hander Drew Storen, who was able to get out of trouble in the seventh inning. After allowing a single to Ed Lucas and walking Christian Yelich, pitching coach Steve McCatty went to the mound and said the "magic words" to Storen.
"I think it's just his general charisma is what it comes down to. Soothing words would be another way of putting it," Storen joked.
Storen was able to settle down and retire the next three hitters he faced, while Rafael Soriano closed out the ninth to pick up his 35th save of the season.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.