Late Wednesday night inside the Washington Nationals clubhouse players glued to their eyes to the television screens which showed a ballgame in Cincinnati that mattered to them. Craig Stammen had approached Jordan Zimmermann and told him in reference to the blind scoop at first that contributed to the Nationals’ harebrained 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies “Nice play. You should have seen it.”

Reporters gathered around backup catcher Jhonatan Solano. His friend Sandy Leon another backup catcher shouted across the room “Enano!” – Spanish for dwarf. But Solano had been just tall enough to make a diving tag at home plate that prevented the tying run in the eighth inning.

The Nationals still had life left in their season Wednesday night and they could use the entire flight to Miami to figure out how exactly that was possible. They needed Zimmermann’s acrobatics covering first Solano’s desperate lunge Ryan Zimmerman’s homer in the seventh and whatever dark art Manager Davey Johnson conjured as he steered them through the late innings.

All the decisions Johnson made and all the zany defensive plays the Nationals converted kept them in the picture for the National League’s second wild-card spot 61 / 2 games behind a Reds team that lost in 16 innings to St. Louis. The Nationals started the night by not capitalizing on the early unraveling of diminished ace Roy Halladay but they ended it in a handshake line after Rafael Soriano recorded his 38th save by striking out former National Roger Bernadina.

“We haven’t had that many games where those breaks have gone our way” Stammen said. “It’s usually the other way around. So it’s finally fun to be on that side like it was last year. Yeah it keeps us going.”

In between the Nationals’ chances to lose and ways to win kept crashing into each other. Johnson let Zimmermann hit for himself with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth down by a run. “The guy leading the club in wins has been the steady guy all year long I’ve got to give him every chance to win that ballgame” Johnson said. The squandering of the chance kept Zimmermann in the game for his league-leading 16th win and allowed him make one of the best plays of the Nationals’ season.

“It worked out in the end” Zimmermann said which may have been the most fitting postscript.