Burnett goes seven strong as Marlins sink Nats

MIAMI (AP) -- For more than a month, with the trade deadline looming, A.J. Burnett has endured speculation regarding where he might be headed.

Baltimore? Boston? The Chicago White Sox?

"Tonight I'm going to South Beach to have dinner with my wife," Burnett said Saturday.

He had reason to celebrate after pitching seven innings to win his third start in a row and help the Florida Marlins beat the slumping Washington Nationals 3-0.

Beyond his night out, Burnett might not be going anywhere. With the non-waiver trade deadline Sunday afternoon, general manager Larry Beinfest hinted the right-hander will remain with the Marlins the rest of the season.

"I would not anticipate any major changes to this team," Beinfest said. "We like this ballclub. We always did, and I think we're seeing it all come together right now. Any deal I anticipate would be an enhancement."

The Marlins extended their winning streak to four games by beating the Nationals, who have lost a season-high six consecutive games and 18 of 23.

Burnett (8-6), a free agent after this season, was perhaps the best pitcher on the trade market, and third baseman Mike Lowell was also the subject of negotiations. But improved play since the All-Star break transformed the Marlins into playoff contenders and made them more reluctant to part with Burnett.

"I think I'm going to be here," said Burnett, who wants to remain in Miami this season. "There's no reason you would get rid of us right now. We're playing good ball. We've got a good streak going. You don't want to break up that chemistry. We've got one more day, so we'll find out."

Burnett walked the first batter, hit the second and dominated the Nationals after that, consistently reaching 97 or 98 mph on the scoreboard radar gun. He allowed four hits, including two infield singles, and struck out eight.

His ERA over his past three starts is 1.33.

"Maybe we ought to tell him he's being traded every day," manager Jack McKeon joked. "He has really turned into a pretty good pitcher. We knew it would happen. He really has come into his own in the past month or so.

"He's not overthrowing. Before he used to wind up and see how hard he could throw. Now he has a pretty good idea of what he's doing. That's maturing," McKeon said.

The Marlins retired the last 11 Washington hitters. Guillermo Mota pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. Todd Jones followed with a perfect ninth for his 20th save in 22 chances and his fourth in four days.

A 50-minute rain delay after the second inning failed to faze either starting pitcher, and John Patterson (4-3) was almost as good as Burnett. Patterson limited Florida to five hits in six innings, but he threw wild pitches to help Paul Lo Duca score twice.

"Patterson certainly deserved better," manager Frank Robinson said. "We didn't give him much of anything today."

Miguel Cabrera had the game's only RBI with a double in the seventh, extending his hitting streak to 11 games.

In an attempt to change their luck, the Marlins this week adopted Burnett's fashion staple -- high black socks with pant legs hiked up. They've since gone 4-0.

"The high socks have done it all," Lo Duca said. "We're going to keep doing it."

The breaks again went their way against the Nationals, who have been luckless lately.

Florida scored in the second inning when Lo Duca led off with a double, took third on a wild pitch and came home when catcher Brian Schneider's errant throw sailed into left field.

The Marlins added a run in the sixth. After Cabrera walked, Lo Duca hit into a forceout, took third on a single by Juan Encarnacion and came home on another wild pitch.

Patterson finished with three wild pitches, doubling his season total. He's just 1-1 in his past seven starts despite allowing a total of only nine runs.

"I'm pretty speechless at this point," he said of his poor run support. "I really don't have a comment."

Game notes
Nationals right fielder Jose Guillen (left shoulder) and second baseman Jose Vidro
(right thigh) were scratched from the lineup less than an hour before the game. ... Marlins first baseman Carlos Delgado (left elbow) and shortstop Alex Gonzalez (right elbow) were again held out of the lineup. McKeon said he expects Gonzalez to return Sunday.