Willingham punctuates 7-run eighth as Marlins rally by Nats

MIAMI -- The Florida Marlins are getting accustomed to come-from-behind wins. Granted, not all of them look quite like this.

Pinch-hitter Josh Willingham hit a go-ahead single during a seven-run rally in the eighth inning and the Marlins beat the Washington Nationals 8-7 Sunday.

The Marlins have rallied to win 40 times in 2008, but this was Florida's largest comeback of the season. Florida tagged four relievers and matched their biggest inning this year.

"It was looking like we were going to lose another one where not a whole lot happened," Willingham said. "But we had a big inning, which we have not had in a while. It was good to have a little offensive explosion right there."

The Nationals took a 6-1 lead into the eighth.

"Not pretty," manager Manny Acta said. "That's all you can say."

Florida has 192 homers this season, but not a single Florida run in the eighth came on a longball. Singles, a double and a little help from the Nationals were all the Marlins needed.

Jorge Cantu started the rally with a two-run double to it 6-3. Dan Uggla brought the Marlins closer with a two-run single.

Alfredo Amezaga's bunt single off Joel Hanrahan scored Uggla to tie the game at 6. Pinch-runner Jeremy Hermida, who had advanced to third on Hanrahan's throwing error, scored on Willingham's single off Steven Shell (2-2).

The Marlins added another run when Amezaga scored on an error on John Baker's grounder.

A double play ended the rally. It was ruled by that Willingham left third base too early while tagging up on Cantu's fly.

"I did not leave early," Willingham said. "I didn't think I left early at the time and I went and watched the replay and it confirmed that I did not leave early, so I think he missed the call."

Ryan Langerhans homered off reliever Doug Waechter in the eighth to give Washington a 6-1 lead. The three-run shot scored Ryan Zimmerman and Lastings Milledge, who had each singled to open the inning.

Milledge scored two runs and drove in two.

Andrew Miller (6-9) got the win and Arthur Rhodes got his first save with the Marlins.

Washington starter Collin Balester didn't allow a hit for 5 2/3 innings. He gave up one run and four hits in 6 2/3 innings. The 22-year-old struck out five and walked three.

Cantu broke up Balester's no-hit bid with a single to left.

"I didn't feel like I had my best stuff," Balester said. "I was just able to get outs when I was able to. If you would have told me I would throw a no-hitter through 5 2/3, I would have said, 'No way.' My fastball command wasn't there. My changeup was the only pitch I felt comfortable throwing. It was a weird day."

Marlins starter Anibal Sanchez allowed two earned runs and four hits over seven innings. The right-hander struck out seven and walked three.

"I did a couple bullpens, working my fastball, because I don't have too much command over it," Sanchez said. "With my fastball, today I used it a lot. And that helped me, because every pitch I threw better."

The Nationals took a 1-0 lead in the second when Luke Montz hit an RBI single. It was the first major league hit for the catcher, who was called up to the big leagues after Jesus Flores sprained his left ankle in a collision at home plate on Sept. 2.

"I was still looking for that first hit," Montz said. "He tried to come fastball in and I just hung on it. I didn't try to do too much. It feels good I got a hit and an RBI on the same one."

Game notes
The Nationals will close their season by playing 10 of their final 13 games at home. Washington opens a four-game home series against the New York Mets on Monday. ... On Tuesday, Florida opens a three-game home series against the Houston Astros, whose game Sunday was moved to Milwaukee because of Hurricane Ike. ... Cameron Maybin, Ryan Tucker and Jesus Delgado will be recalled by the Marlins and Gaby Sanchez will have his contract selected Monday.