That's why they're shopping for an upgrade before Thursday's trade deadline, which is a change from recent seasons — and a change from mid-July.
A ninth-inning rally fell short Wednesday and Miami lost to Washington 4-3. That ended the Marlins' six-game winning streak and left them six games out of first place.
But they've won nine of their past 11 and are seeking a starting pitcher to bolster their postseason hopes, presidential of baseball operations Mike Hill said.
"Ten days ago people may have thought we were sellers, and they were coming at us one way. Now it's completely 180," Hill said. "We're going to do our best to try to upgrade, but we're not going to be foolish. We're not going to be shortsighted."
Miami's rotation is young and thin in the wake of ace Jose Fernandez's season-ending injury. But the starters have been better lately, and Brad Hand (2-3) allowed three runs in seven-plus innings Wednesday.
Tanner Roark was better, though. For the fourth start in a row, Roark (11-6) allowed one run in seven innings. He has won all four games.
As the Nationals prepared to take the field with a three-run lead in the ninth, they braced themselves for another comeback bid by the feisty Marlins. This time the Nationals held on — barely.
Drew Storen allowed two runs before securing the final out for his first save since August 2013, and Washington averted a series sweep.
"It's not always going to be pretty," Storen said. "It's about getting it done. That's all that matters."
Washington manager Matt Williams decided to rest closer Rafael Soriano, who hasn't pitched since he blew a three-run ninth-inning lead in Washington's loss Monday. That left Storen to try to finish off the Marlins.
"That's a good team over there," the Nationals' Ian Desmond said. "In the dugout going out for the bottom of the ninth we were telling each other, 'Hey, we've got to focus and finish this thing out.' For a while we've seen the Marlins getting better. This series was evidence of that. That bottom of the ninth was evidence of that."
"I was happy to see us come back and put some pressure on them," Stanton said. "I really envisioned us tying that game up."
Jayson Werth, back in the lineup after missing one start because of a sore right ankle, put the Nationals ahead to stay with a sacrifice fly in their three-run eighth. Desmond added a two-out, two-run double off A.J. Ramos.
Miami opens a four-game home series against Cincinnati on Thursday when Tom Koehler pitches against Johnny Cueto. Koehler is 4-3 with a 2.75 ERA at home this year, and 3-4 with a 4.96 ERA on the road.
WORKING THE PHONES
Like the Marlins, the Nationals are potential buyers before the trade deadline.
"Do we want to have somebody that's going to make an impact? Sure," Williams said. "That may not be available. There are some guys we're taking a hard look at."
Before the game, Marlins infielder Ed Lucas was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans. He had been sent down July 20.
"I must be a pretty bad teammate if as soon as I'm gone they rattle off nine out of 10," Lucas said with a chuckle. "It kind of makes you question yourself a little bit."