MIAMI (AP) — Gio Gonzalez won 21 games last year while helping the Washington Nationals possess the best ERA in the league on their way to the NL East title.

Things haven’t gone nearly as well in 2013 as Washington is struggling to simply stay in the playoff chase.

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The Nationals, though, have been on a roll lately, and they’ll look to win for the eighth time in nine games Thursday night when Gonzalez takes the mound against the visiting Miami Marlins.

Gonzalez (7-6, 3.72 ERA) finished with a career-best 2.89 ERA in 2012 for the division champions, who are seven games back of Cincinnati for the NL’s second wild-card spot.

He went 0-2 with a 2.00 ERA over his previous three starts before allowing seven runs and 10 hits in 3 1-3 innings of Washington’s 11-10 win over Kansas City on Friday.

Gonzalez’s one strikeout was his fewest in 93 starts since also striking out a single hitter against the Royals on Sept. 14, 2010, while with Oakland.

“You are going to have games where you are going to be iffy,” Gonzalez said. “You are going to be all over the place. (Friday) was a perfect example.”

The left-hander has been solid against the Marlins, though, going 2-2 with a 1.93 ERA over four career starts. He allowed two hits in six innings of a 3-0 win over Miami on April 3.

Washington (67-65) continued its hot stretch with a 4-3 win Wednesday. Bryce Harper extended his career-best hitting streak to 10, Denard Span raised his hitting streak to 11 and Ian Desmond had three hits.

Desmond drove in the go-ahead run with a single in the seventh.

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“Things are on my side right now,” said Desmond, who is 11 for 22 over his last five games. “I’m in a good spot mentally right now, and a majority of the game is just mental.”

The Nationals are 5-0 at home this season versus Miami (49-82), which has the majors’ worst offense and scored 17 runs while dropping seven of eight.

Giancarlo Stanton and Jeff Mathis each homered, but the Marlins fell for the eighth time in 11 matchups with the Nationals.

“I liked the fact that it looked like we kind of swung the bats a little better as far as the hits,” manager Mike Redmond said. “I don’t know. I’ll have to sleep on it. We’ll see what I can come up with tomorrow.”

Tom Koehler takes the mound for Miami as he looks to build off a solid outing.

Koehler (3-8, 4.45) gave up one run in seven innings before Colorado rallied to beat the Marlins 3-2 on Friday. He went 0-2 with a 6.46 ERA over his previous three outings.

“He had good tempo,” Redmond said. “Sometimes he gets a little squirrelly out there and walks a guy, but he did what he needed to do with runs. He micromanaged that one run he gave up. With our pitchers, I know they feel like they have to go out there and be perfect every single night and it’s tough to pitch like that.”

The right-hander has never faced Washington.

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