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Anibal Sanchez leads Miami as Marlins set franchise record

Disregard their two big Octobers.

When it comes to the regular season, there has never been a better month for the Marlins than the one they are in now. With their 3-1 victory over the first-place Nationals on Tuesday, the Marlins set a team record for most wins in a month: 20.

And they still have one game left in May.

“I want 20 wins every month,” manager Ozzie Guillen said.

Anibal Sanchez continued his mastery of the Nationals, improving to 8-0 all-time against the familiar nemesis, as the Marlins inched closer to the top of the standings. And his teammates even provided him with a handful of runs. Sanchez has been receiving little run support.

“This kid has been pitching so well for us and we haven’t been helping him win games,” Guillen said of Sanchez, who improved to 3-3 while lowering his ERA to 2.56.

Then again, Sanchez never loses to the Nationals.

He and Boston’s Jon Lester are the only two active pitchers in the majors without a loss in 15 or more starts against an opponent. For Lester, the punching bag is Baltimore. Josh Johnson could join the list with a win on Wednesday over the Nationals. He is 7-0 in 14 career starts against the Nats.

A victory on Wednesday also would give the Marlins a sweep over the Nationals and pull them to win a half game of first place. And it would close out May for them with 21 wins in the month.

The previous record for most wins in a month by a Marlins team was 19, set in August 1997.

“We want to play hard, we want to win, and we want to make the playoffs,” said Sanchez, who had lost his three previous starts before Tuesday.

Sanchez held the Nationals without a hit until Ian Desmond led of the fifth with a single to left. But Washington made the most of the opportunity. Desmond stole second, advanced to third on catcher John Buck’s throwing error, and scored on a perfectly executed suicide-squeeze bunt by Corey Brown.

The Marlins tied it in the sixth. After Omar Infante doubled off the wall in left, Giancarlo Stanton stroked a two-out double to make it 1-1. Stanton has driven in 28 RBI this month, five shy of a team record that belongs to Hanley Ramirez.

It was a throwing error by Nationals starter Edwin Jackson in the seventh that set up the Marlins’ go-ahead run. Chris Coghlan singled with one out. But a pickoff throw by Jackson was wide of the mark and the ball got past first baseman Adam LaRoche, allowing Coghlan to race to third.

Greg Dobbs, pinch-hitting, then lofted fly ball to left that wasn’t hit deep. Corey Brown made a strong, on-target throw to the plate, but Coghlan slid in just in time to give the Marlins a 2-1 lead.

“One play doesn’t win or a lose a game,’ Coghlan said. “But there are one, two — sometimes three plays — that are just huge. It just so happened that was one of them.”

The Nationals threatened in the eighth. Randy Choate gave up a leadoff single to Xavier Nady and his replacement, Steve Cishek, issued back-to-back walks to load the bases. But Cishek struck out Bryce Harper on three pitches and got Ryan Zimmerman to bounce out.

The Marlins added an insurance run in the eighth when Hanley Ramirez clubbed a solo home run off Nationals reliever Chris Stammen. That made it 3-1.

Heath Bell took over in the ninth, striking out Adam LaRoche and Desmond to start the inning before giving up a double to Jhonatan Solano, who was making his major-league debut.

But Bell retired Nady on a fly ball to end the game, recording his ninth save.

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