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MIA@CLE: Johnson goes seven, allowing just one run

The Nationals dropped the first two games of the three-game set in Miami, and salvaging the finale of their nine-game road trip comes with a stiff test in the form of Marlins starter Josh Johnson.

Johnson takes the ball not only looking to push Miami to a sweep and move within one-half game of Washington in the National League East standings, but to also extend his undefeated record against the Nats. The right-hander owns a 7-0 record and 3.22 ERA in 14 career starts vs. the Nationals, and Miami in 10-4 in those outings.

Johnson doesn't shy away from that mark nor the importance of his role in taking on the division-leading rivals in front of the home crowd.

"It's huge," Johnson said. "Me and Ricky [Nolasco] were talking. We've been here the longest among the pitchers. It definitely makes a big difference when you've got the fans behind you. It's huge when you get that big out or that big strikeout or big hit, you know they're behind you. They're loud."

The circumstances around Wednesday's series finale only reinforces the role Chien Ming-Wang could play as the newest member of the Nationals' rotation, replacing Ross Detwiler in the fifth spot. The veteran right-hander, who made his 2012 debut on Friday in Atlanta with one earned run allowed in three innings of relief work, will make his first start of the season.

Despite just one outing after starting the season on the disabled list with a strained hamstring, Nationals manager Davey Johnson acknowledged Wang's history of pitching in competitive division races played into his decision.

"Here is a guy who has been in pennant fights, too, and knows what the pressure is all about," Johnson said Saturday. "So it's a good opportunity for him and for us, to have him be in the role he is accustomed to, and that's to start. It doesn't lessen the fact that I think Detwiler is one heck of a pitcher."

Marlins: Stanton's timely home runs
Giancarlo Stanton's season turned around when the calendar flipped to May. After hitting just one home run with nine RBIs in April, Stanton has hit 11 home runs and driven in 28 runs this month. More importantly, six of Stanton's home runs this season have either tied the game or given the Marlins the lead. That ties Joey Votto for third in the National League. Stanton hit 16 such situational home runs in 2011.

Nationals: Harper extends hit streak
• Bryce Harper extended his hitting streak to nine games on Wednesday. Harper has tallied five multihit games during the streak, with six RBIs, 10 runs scored and five walks. The outfielder has raised his batting average from .244 to .284.

• Johnson said catcher Jesus Flores, who is resting a strained right hamstring, felt better Tuesday. The team remains cautious with Flores and does not want to rush him back.

Worth noting
• Jose Reyes extended his home hitting streak to nine games on Tuesday. The shortstop is hitting .324 (12-for-37) during the stretch, with three RBIs and four stolen bases.

• Greg Dobbs has 79 career pinch-hits, which is currently tied with Marlins broadcaster Tommy Hutton for 34th all-time. With his next pinch-hit, Dobbs will tie Kevin Bass, John Cangelosi and Daryle Ward for 33rd all-time.

• The Nationals have hit 33 home runs in their last 24 games. Comments