By KATE HEDLIN
(AP) -- The Miami Marlins continue to play winning baseball. Significantly, those wins are starting to come against their NL East rivals.
The Marlins seek to make May 2012 the winningest month in franchise history Tuesday night as Anibal Sanchez tries to remain unbeaten against the division-leading Washington Nationals.
Miami's 8-14 April has become a fading memory thanks to a major league-best 19-8 record in May, tying the franchise record for victories in any month.
After going 1-7 in April against division rivals, including getting swept by the Nationals in two games in the nation's capital, the Marlins (27-22) have won four of six versus the East this month, including a 5-3 victory over Washington on Monday to open a three-game home set.
Miami, tied with the New York Mets for second place in the division 2 1/2 games behind the Nationals, has won three of four overall.
Giancarlo Stanton hit his 11th home run of the month and 12th of the season, and struggling closer Heath Bell pitched a perfect ninth to earn the save after failing to complete the inning in either of his previous two outings.
"We played well," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "It was two good teams. They're in first place for a reason."
The Nationals (29-19) had won six of seven following a three-game sweep of Atlanta over the weekend, but went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position during Monday's defeat.
Miami slowed a Washington offense which scored 22 runs against the Braves and had averaged 5.6 runs over its previous seven games. Bryce Harper went 1 for 4 to extend his hitting streak to eight games, but flied out in the seventh with runners on first and second and no outs.
"We had the right guys up," manager Davey Johnson said. "We just didn't get it done."
They've never gotten much done against Sanchez (2-3, 2.87 ERA), who is 7-0 with a 2.10 ERA in 18 career starts against Washington. He didn't receive any support, though, in a 3-2, 10-inning loss in the nation's capital on April 21, allowing two solo homers while striking out eight in seven innings.
However, Sanchez has lost his last three starts overall and is winless in his last four outings. The right-hander gave up a season-high five runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 14-7 loss to San Francisco on Thursday.
Sanchez hadn't allowed more than three runs in any of his previous eight starts, but has suffered from a lack of run support. Miami has scored three runs or fewer in eight of his nine outings.
He'll by opposed by Edwin Jackson (1-2, 3.38), who is looking for his first win since April 19 against Houston.
The right-hander went seven innings in a 4-1 loss at Philadelphia last Wednesday, allowing three runs and seven hits. The Nationals are 0-5 in his road starts this year, though Jackson has posted a 3.23 ERA in those outings.
Jackson is 1-3 with a 7.17 ERA in five career appearances against the Marlins, but went eight scoreless innings the last time he faced them in 2010.
Updated May 28, 2012