NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran came oh-so close to hitting a go-ahead grand slam in his long-awaited return to the New York Mets lineup.
Hanley Ramirez and Cameron Maybin left no doubt when they connected for the Florida Marlins.
"We know we have to win every day, but we don't try to put a lot of pressure on us," Ramirez said. "We stay in the race. That's all it's about."
Florida overcame an early exit by injured starter Rick VandenHurk and remained six games behind first-place Philadelphia in the NL East. The Marlins, who opened the season with a major league-low $37 million payroll, are 5½ behind Colorado for the NL wild card.
Beltran was back in the Mets lineup after missing 70 games, and he brought a sparse crowd to its feet in the seventh inning. His bases-loaded drive to right field was caught a step or two in front of the fence by Cody Ross, preserving Florida's 4-2 lead.
"I just got under that one," Beltran said. "Today I felt like a kid in the playground, like when I take my daughter to the playground. She's having fun and that's how I felt today. I felt good."
Matt Lindstrom worked a perfect eighth and Leo Nunez got three quick outs for his 19th save, bouncing back from a miserable outing in Washington. The right-hander threw five pitches Sunday and gave up two home runs, allowing the lowly Nationals to rally from three runs down for a 5-4 victory.
"He did a nice job. Closers, they've got to have short-term memories. He seems to do that," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I thought he pitched today. I thought he did a nice job pitching instead of just throwing. Hopefully he can get better and better."
Brian Sanches (4-1) tossed two scoreless innings for the victory. VandenHurk left with a 4-1 lead after the fourth because of a stiff back. He is day to day.
"Just some tightness. I'll be fine," VandenHurk said. "I'm pretty sure it's not going to be anything serious."
Sidelined since June 22 with a bone bruise on his right knee, Beltran was activated from the disabled list before the game and finished 1 for 4 with a fly-ball double to left. He also made a smooth, sliding catch in center.
"It will probably take him a few games to really find his rhythm at the plate," manager Jerry Manuel said. "I think once that starts he will get on track, so to speak. He looked pretty good."
Trailing by two, New York tried to rally against Sanches in the seventh. Three singles loaded the bases for David Wright, who struck out. Beltran's long fly left the Mets 4 for 55 (.073) with the bases loaded and two outs this season.
"When he hit it, I thought he got it," Sanches said. "My first thought was that it was going to hit our hotel."
New York was 34-33 when Beltran went down, only two games out of first place in the NL East. Also missing Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado for the entire stretch, the Mets went 28-42 without Beltran and fell to fourth place.
Even with Beltran batting behind him for the first time in 2½ months, Wright had a terrible night. He struck out twice, grounded into an inning-ending double play and stranded five runners. He made an error at third base and botched another grounder that was ruled a hit.
Ramirez, the NL's leading hitter, drove a pitch from Tim Redding (2-5) to left in the third. The shot appeared to clip the bottom of a sign that hangs from the facade of the second deck.
Maybin connected off Redding in the fourth after Ross' double, a drive that sailed over the home run apple nestled behind the 408 sign on the center-field fence.
It was the third career home run for Florida's prized outfield prospect -- and first since he was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans on Aug. 31.
"I don't think we've even seen half the stuff he can do," Gonzalez said.
Rookie catcher Josh Thole hit a sacrifice fly for the Mets in the fourth, his first major league RBI. Angel Pagan tripled in the fifth and scored on Luis Castillo's infield single.
Florida leadoff batter Chris Coghlan went 0 for 4 with a walk, ending his 14-game hitting streak. ... Pagan has nine triples, all since July 11.