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 a painful start to the season. The t 
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WASHINGTON -- After Bryce Harper provided Washington with a first-inning lead, the Nationals spent the rest of the game holding off the worst team in the National League. Harper hit a three-run homer to back an effective pitching performance by Gio Gonzalez, and the Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 3-2 on Thursday night to keep alive their slim hope of reaching the playoffs. Despite winning 11 of 13 in a belated run, the Nationals trail Cincinnati by five games for the final NL wild-card slot with nine games remaining. Washington needed every bit of mettle it could muster to win this one. Gonzalez (11-7) worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the third and spied a runner trying to steal third in the sixth. Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard each worked a harrowing scoreless inning before Rafael Soriano got three outs, stranding two runners in earning his 42nd save. "I mean, everybody was out there. Gave me a heart attack. Check my pulse," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "Gio took it right to the edge, Storen to the edge, Clip and Sori topped it off. But its nice to come out on top." Denard Span went 0 for 4 for Washington, ending his hitting streak at 29 games -- one short of the Nationals record. He was bidding to become the 27th player to have a 30-game hitting streak since Joe DiMaggio had his 56-game run in 1941. Span received a standing ovation from many in the crowd of 25,945 after he struck out in the seventh, his final at-bat. Although the streak is done, Span expressed no regret. "It was unbelievable," he said. "It was like a roller-coaster, especially these last 10 days or so. It was a lot of fun. It gave me added motivation, to come to the field to try to extend it." Gonzalez allowed two runs and seven hits over six innings to improve to 3-0 against Miami this season. He struck out three, lifting his team-high total to 186. "The good news is we got the win," Gonzalez said. "Its a very important win." Harpers 20th homer of the season came off Henderson Alvarez (4-5) and turned out to be all the offence the Nationals needed to improve to 12-4 against Miami, including 7-0 at home. "I like being in those pressure situations, crucial situations of playing for the wild card," Harper said. "All year long you try to play for the playoffs and try to go to the next round. Now its getting to that point where were turning it on and playing the game how we should have played it all year." Ed Lucas had three hits for the Marlins, who must go 7-2 in their last nine games to avoid 100 losses. Miami went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10. "I think thats good were getting guys in scoring position, but at the same time weve got to do a better job of driving those guys in," manager Mike Redmond said. "We seem to have two or three, four opportunities a night and cant capitalize on them and really that ends up being the difference." Miami went up 1-0 when Donovan Solano opened the game with a double and Lucas followed with an RBI single. In the bottom half, Ryan Zimmerman hit the first of his three singles and Jayson Werth walked before Harper drove a hanging curveball over the wall in centre field. It was his first home run since Aug. 29. The Marlins loaded the bases with two outs in the third before Placido Polanco flied out. Successive doubles by Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Ruggiano got Miami within 3-2 in the sixth, but Gonzalez nabbed Ruggiano trying to steal third, short-circuiting the uprising. "I say jokingly, I set him up," Gonzalez said. "Im glad I got out of that inning." NOTES: Jordan Zimmermann seeks his 19th win for Washington on Friday night. Miami starter Jacob Turner (3-7) will attempt to break a six-game losing streak. ... The Nationals acquired minor league pitcher Matthew Spann as the player to be named in the Aug. 23 trade that sent OF David DeJesus to Tampa Bay. Spann is 14-10 with a 3.03 ERA in four pro seasons. ... Johnson expects RHP Stephen Strasburg to start Saturday. Strasburg felt forearm tightness while throwing Wednesday and was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday. ... Both teams received a warning from home plate umpire Bill Welke after Alvarez hit Ian Desmond with a 3-0 pitch in the first inning. Johnson said Alvarez should have been ejected. ... The Nationals are 28-11 since Aug. 8. Andrew Norwell Jersey . Dragic was a game-time decision because of a sore right ankle that had kept him out of Wednesdays loss at Utah, but played all but the last 10 seconds of the second half in the first 40-point game for a Phoenix player since Amare Stoudemires 44 on March 19, 2010. D.J. Hayden Jersey . Heck, we might just miss the BCS. Maybe? It sort of worked out this season. Top-ranked Florida State (13-0) was the only team to get through the regular season unbeaten, and the Seminoles did it in dominating fashion. http://www.shopthejaguarsonline.com/Eli ... rs-Jersey/. The 29-year-old German, the 2011 overall World Cup champion, says she has decided "to end my career now. Will Richardson Jersey . UCI President Brian Cookson said Wednesday the commission will investigate allegations "that the UCI has been involved in wrongdoing in the past -- allegations which have done so much to hurt the credibility of the UCI and our sport. Ronnie Harrison Jersey . Venable and Jeremy Hermida drove in three runs apiece, and the Padres beat the Colorado Rockies 7-2 on Sunday to snap a nine-game losing streak. BARCELONA, Spain -- Diego Costa scored his Spanish league-leading 18th and 19th goals to help Atletico Madrid come back to beat a feisty Levante 3-2 on Saturday and provisionally move to the top of the table. Atletico leads Barcelona by three points before its game at Getafe on Sunday, when the defending champion will be without the injured Lionel Messi, Xavi Herandez, Victor Valdes and suspended striker Neymar. Diego Costa moved two goals ahead of Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo in their scoring duel. The Brazilian-born striker whom Spain plans on taking to the World Cup has scored in all 11 of Atleticos wins at Vicente Calderon Stadium this season. Levante stunned the hosts by scoring less than a minute into the match when Andreas Ivanschitz finished off a team buildup. Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was called into action to repel David Barrals hard strike in the 10th, after which he railed at his defence. His teammates promptly responded by pushing Levante into its area, and the equalizer came on the half-hour when defender Diego Godin rose up to powerfully head Juanfran Torres short cross past goalie Keylor Navas. Diego Costa put his team ahead two minutes after the break by fending off his marker to volley in a lobbed free kick from Gabi Fernandez. Levante wasnt done and Pedro Rios made it 2-2 in the 56th with a solo effort to win the ball, sprint forward and score from distance. Diego Costa, however, restored Atleticos advantage for good in the 77th by stepping up to convert a penalty after Juanfran Torres was fouled by Ruben Garcia on the edge of the box. "It was tough. Levante is the best team that has come through the Calderon this season," Juanfran said. Levante finished with 10 men after Juanfran Garcia was shown a red card in the 90th after colliding with Filipe Luis while awaiting a corner kick. Also, 110-man Sevilla won 2-1 at Villarreal as it rebounded from its humbling exit from the Copa del Rey with a fourth win in five rounds, while Almeria won 1-0 to keep Real Betis bottom of the table and winless in 10 league matches.dddddddddddd Sevilla was shocked by third-division side Racing Santander in the Copa on Wednesday, but Ivan Rakitic returned to the squad to help deal Villarreal just its second loss at El Madrigal Stadium this season. Rakitic found defender Juan "Cala" Torres with a long pass to head Sevilla in front in the 24th. Striker Carlos Bacca was denied by the woodwork before he scored his eighth league goal from a pass by Rakitic in the 71st. Villarreals Jeremy Perbet converted a penalty in the 89th after Cala received a red card for fouling Jaume Costa in front of the net. Villarrreal coach Marcelino Garcia was ejected from the dugouts one minute from halftime for repeatedly complaining to the referee. He watched the rest of the match from a private box in the stadiums upper level. "This victory is important beyond our elimination from the Copa, but it is still just another step forward," Sevilla coach Unai Emery said. "Its true we had a painful start to the season. The team is settling down and this win will boost our confidence." Almeria midfielder Ramon Azeez netted what proved to be the winner four minutes in when his long strike took a deflection off Betis defender Paulao to fool goalkeeper Guillermo Sara. Almeria goalie Esteban Suarez did the rest, making several saves to further infuriate Betis disgruntled fans. Betis has shown no improvement under new coach Juan Carlos Garrido. It has lost both league matches and struggled to get by minnow Lleida Esportiu in the Copa since Garrido replaced the fired Pepe Mel. Later, Real Sociedad took its winning streak into Granada. 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