MIAMI -- Livan Hernandez barely trotted out of the batters' box after grounding out to short in the second inning. He ambled slowly up the baseline after hitting a run-scoring single three innings later.
Clearly, he was saving his strength for his duties on the mound.
The right-hander allowed a season-high 11 hits and threw 145 pitches over eight tough innings, willing the Washington Nationals past the Florida Marlins 4-2 on Sunday to end a season-high six-game losing streak.
"Maybe now the team will come back and play better," Hernandez said. "We've got two months of baseball left."
Nick Johnson hit a solo homer in the ninth inning and drove in two runs for the Nationals, who avoided a three-game sweep and remained five games behind Atlanta in the NL East.
"If you win one in each series, they can only pick up a game on you," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "The big swing is the three-game deal. That's why just a little bit of margin can be the difference."
Hernandez (13-4), who won for the first time in his last five starts, was a workhorse in 91-degree heat against the team he helped win the 1997 World Series. He had just one perfect inning, and found ways to strand nine baserunners along the way.
"Livan can pitch, man," said Mike Lowell, who had three hits for Florida and raised his average to .244 -- the highest he's been since the season's first week. "With that heat, and he had to have a ton of pitches, but he grinds it out. He eats up innings year in and year out. He kept us at bay."
Jeff Conine had two hits for Florida, as did Miguel Cabrera, who extended his hitting streak to 12 games. He's batted .450 since the All-Star break for Florida, which lost for just the third time in 11 games -- but fell 6½ games behind Atlanta.
"You'd like to have the sweep, but our philosophy has been go in there and win every series, and that's what we did," said Marlins manager Jack McKeon, whose team opens a nine-game road trip Monday in St. Louis. "Sometimes, you want to be a hog, you wind up eating crap."
Juan Encarnacion's first-inning sacrifice fly brought home Damion Easley with the game's first run for Florida. Paul Lo Duca's pinch-hit single accounted for Florida's other run, driving home Lowell in the sixth.
Washington nearly broke through in the second. Preston Wilson hit a one-out double and would have scored easily on Carlos Baerga's sinking liner to right-center. But Juan Pierre made a sprawling catch -- and the Nationals, even after two walks by Marlins starter Brian Moehler (6-8) loaded the bases, failed to score.
That started a trend; Washington stranded 10 runners in the second through fifth innings alone, but eventually got to Moehler.
Johnson's two-out double in the third inning drove Ryan Church around from first to tie the game, and Washington scored twice in the fifth.
Jose Guillen led off with a double and later scored on Baerga's two-out, two-strike single to put Washington up 2-1. After Cristian Guzman was intentionally walked to load the bases, Hernandez's single to right scored Baerga and gave Washington a two-run lead.
That was all for Moehler, who gave up three runs and nine hits, walked four and failed to win for the 10th time in his 11 home starts this year.
"I deserved what I got. ... I pitched terrible today," said Moehler, who, in 32 1/3 innings in July, allowed 51 hits and posted an ERA of 5.29 -- yet won four times in six decisions. "We lost 4-2 and I take total blame."
Johnson hit his ninth homer of the year off Guillermo Mota for the final margin.
"It made my job a little bit easier," Cordero said.
Florida made a trade during the game, acquiring reliever Ron Villone from Seattle in exchange for two minor leaguers. Villone is expected to join the Marlins on Monday in St. Louis.
- Hernandez completed at least seven innings for the eighth consecutive start. He was five pitches away from matching his season high, set June 3 -- also against the Marlins.
- Marlins SS Alex Gonzalez (sore elbow) was back in the lineup, but 1B Carlos Delgado (sore arm) remained sidelined.
- The Nationals optioned OF Marlon Byrd to Triple-A New Orleans, replacing him with OF Matt Cepicky. Byrd hit .243 in 51 games, 6-for-42 in July.
- Encarnacion is 8-for-12 with 18 RBI with the bases loaded this season.
- Cabrera hit .373 in July, the best month of his young career.