MIAMI (AP) – Livan Hernandez allowed two runs in eight difficult innings and added a run-scoring single, helping the Washington Nationals beat the Florida Marlins 4-2 on Sunday to end a season-high six-game losing streak.

Nick Johnson hit his ninth homer and drove in two runs for the Nationals, who avoided a three-game sweep and remained five games behind Atlanta in the NL East.

Hernandez (13-4), who won for the first time in his last five starts, allowed a season-high 11 hits and threw 145 pitches – in 91-degree heat – against the team he helped win the 1997 World Series. Chad Cordero worked a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 35th save.

Mike Lowell had three hits for the Marlins, who lost for only the third time in their last 11 games. Miguel Cabrera added two hits to extend his hitting streak to 12 games; he’s batted .450 since the All-Star break for Florida, which fell 61/2 games behind Atlanta and opens a nine-game road trip Monday in St. Louis.

Juan Encarnacion and Paul Lo Duca drove in runs for the Marlins.

Damion Easley, making his sixth straight start, doubled and eventually scored on Encarnacion’s sacrifice fly in the first, giving Florida a 1-0 lead.

Washington nearly tied it in the second. Preston Wilson hit a one-out double and would have scored easily on 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.

The Nationals knotted the score an inning later when Johnson’s two-out double to right drove Ryan Church around from first. Baerga got his RBI in the fifth; his two-out, two-strike single to right brought home Jose Guillen, who led off with a double, and put Washington up 2-1.

After Cristian Guzman was intentionally walked to load the bases, Hernandez’s single to right scored Baerga and put the Nationals up 3-1. That was all for Moehler, who gave up nine hits, walked four and was somewhat saved by Washington stranding 10 runners from the second through fifth innings.

In 11 home starts this year, Moehler has one win. And in six July starts, covering 32 1-3 innings, he allowed 51 hits and posted an ERA of 5.29 – yet won four times.

Lo Duca’s pinch-hit single in the sixth, a soft fly ball that dropped into short right, brought home Lowell and drew the Marlins within 3-2. But Johnson’s solo homer in the ninth off Guillermo Mota restored Washington’s two-run margin.

Notes: 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. It’s unknown if he’ll play when the Marlins open a four-game series Monday in St. Louis. … 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 RBIs with the bases loaded this season. … Cabrera hit .373 in July, the best month of his young career.

AP-ES-07-31-05 1636EDT

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