Nationals manager Davey Johnson understands that his team's chances of making the playoffs are slim to none. However, he's seen stranger things happen.
"I mean, when a club, all they have to do is win five or so games," Johnson said. "It means it's pretty easy to do. So, that means we have to win out and hope somebody slips."
Remaining idle on Saturday because of a rainout, Washington is 4 1/2 games behind the Reds for the second National League Wild Card spot with eight games to play.
The Marlins and Nationals will square off in a split doubleheader Sunday at Nationals Park. In Game 1 at 1:35 p.m. ET, Miami right-hander Tom Koehler will face Washington right-hander Dan Haren. Game 2 at 7:05 p.m. will showcase Marlins rookie Brian Flynn and Nats ace Stephen Strasburg.
Koehler (3-10, 4.51 ERA) is coming off easily the best outing of his young career after tossing eight scoreless innings against the Mets on Sunday for the no-decision. With two starts left before the end of the season, he is trying to establish himself for consideration in next season's rotation.
"For me, I want to do whatever they feel will help the team out the most," Koehler said. "If that's starting or relieving, that's what I want to do. I enjoy starting. I enjoy controlling the game. At the same time, I still enjoy coming in during an impact [relief] situation. For me, it's really just about being here.
"The way I look at it, it's pitching, whether I go six or seven, or one."
Haren (9-13, 4.88 ERA) comes into Sunday's contest having tossed two straight quality outings, combining to allow just one run on four hits in 12 innings. That is a great sign for the right-hander, who had surrendered 12 runs on 15 hits in 5 2/3 innings in two prior starts.
Meanwhile, Flynn takes the hill in the nightcap, ready to showcase his 93-plus-mph fastball in his fourth start since being a September callup.
"Obviously, we heard a lot of great things about him," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "Now we get a chance to see him and what he brings. I think this is great experience for him to come up and get some starts. Probably just as much for him to get to see what he needs to do to be successful in this league. Also for us to see what he can do, and to see where he fits going forward."
Still looking for his first career victory, Flynn allowed six runs on 11 hits in six innings for the loss on Tuesday against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
As for Strasburg (7-9, 2.96 ERA), he's spent plenty of time off the rubber, last pitching on Sept. 8. He was supposed to pitch last Friday but was scratched and pushed back to Thursday. That plan changed once again when Strasburg had trouble getting loose and felt continuing tightness on Wednesday.
The fireballer got the go-ahead for Sunday's start after completing his pregame throwing without any problems on Friday.
"He's our No. 1 pitcher. Anything that goes on with No. 1 pitchers, high-draft pick, No. 1, there's just a lot of interest," Johnson said. "Same thing with [Bryce] Harper. Anything happens to him, everybody analyzes it every which way. It's just part of it."
Marlins: Team making fundamental plays
While the Marlins may be in last place in the NL East, they have thrived in minimizing unearned runs.
Miami has yielded just 43 on the season, which is tied with the Rangers for the 10th fewest by any MLB team.
Every team ahead of Miami has a winning record, and they either will be heading to the playoffs or they remain in contention for a Wild Card berth.
"It's fundamentals," Marlins infield coach Perry Hill said. "Making the routine plays, and being in the right position. That's it."
Nationals: Rendon improving at second base
Previously a third baseman, 23-year-old Anthony Rendon is making progress as a rookie second baseman for the Nationals.
He took over for an injured and ineffective Danny Espinosa earlier this season and has now started 77 games at second for the Nats.
"I think he's been great," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "As a matter of fact, you forget that he wasn't always a second baseman, which I think is a really good sign. He just looks natural over there."
He's made nine errors there for a .974 fielding percentage, but FanGraphs.com's Ultimate Zone Rating has his contributions at 2.2 runs above average.
• Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos has 56 RBIs in 72 games this season. Since coming off the disabled list on July 4, he's a team-best 25-for-72 (.347) with runners in scoring position.
• The Marlins have had 53 starts by rookie pitchers this season. Only the Brewers have had more games started by rookies with 58.
Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.