MIAMI -- Josh Beckett made a breakthrough Friday night, much to his chagrin.
Beckett's career progress has been stalled by injuries that have sent him to the disabled list nine times, including twice this year. He surpassed his previous career high of nine wins in 2003 and 2004.
"It's nice," Beckett said. "I just try to be positive. I probably have 10 or 11 more starts this season, maybe more if we go to the playoffs."
The postseason is looking like a stronger possibility for the Marlins, who have won three in a row, all since hiking their pant legs and wearing high black socks in a bid to change their luck. They closed within 1½ games of the Nationals, who fell one game behind NL wild-card leader Houston.
Paul Lo Duca doubled home three runs in the first inning against the Nationals, who have lost five straight and 17 of their last 22 games.
"Every loss is tougher and tougher and tougher," Washington outfielder Jose Guillen said.
The Nationals have lost 10 consecutive one-run decisions, including their past four games.
"Close doesn't count," manager Frank Robinson said. "It just seems like when the other team scores, we're not able to overcome it."
Beckett (10-6) allowed only two hits in the first six innings, then tired in the seventh on an 86-degree night. He struck out eight, walked one, allowed three runs and improved his career record to 36-32.
The right-hander broke into the majors in 2001 at age 21 and was the World Series MVP in 2003. But injuries, primarily finger blisters, have left him with a reputation as an underachiever.
"I envisioned him winning 20 last year," manager Jack McKeon said. "He's halfway there this year. I hope sometime in the near future I have an opportunity to watch his 20th win."
Washington's Brian Schneider hit his seventh homer in the third, but otherwise the fiery Beckett dominated early.
He started a 1-6-3 double play to end the third inning, then punched the air in celebration. He threw another fist after a strikeout ended the fourth as the crowd of 29,322 roared.
"When a guy is throwing like that, you only need a couple of runs," Pierre said. "We're going to need him down the stretch. He has proved to be a big-money guy in big situations. Hopefully he stays healthy. When he's healthy, you know what he can do."
Three relievers completed a seven-hitter. Todd Jones pitched the ninth for his 19th save in 21 chances and his third in three nights.
Armas fell to 1-5 on the road, allowing four runs in six innings. He retired the first two batters in the fifth but gave up a run on a walk to Cabrera and singles by Lo Duca and Juan Encarnacion.
Washington scored in the seventh on singles by Guillen, Preston Wilson and Vinny Castilla to chase Beckett. Reliever Jim Mecir gave up an RBI single by Schneider to make the score 4-3, then struck out Ryan Church with runners at second and third to end the inning.
"I've got to get the job done," Church said. "All it takes is one hit, and the game changes."
- The Marlins had lost the opening game in eight consecutive series.
- Nationals SS Cristian Guzman was 1-for-35 since the All-Star break before he singled in the third.
- Armas fell to 1-6 with a 5.55 ERA in seven lifetime starts in Miami. On the road this season he has an ERA of 7.49 ERA in six starts.
- Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 10 games.