As Jordan Zimmermann walked off the Nationals Park mound Friday night and pounded his glove twice the math still implied a long cold winter would pass before he returned. In his final home start of the season he had dominated the Miami Marlins for nine innings. Zimmermann strode toward catcher Wilson Ramos and shook his hand. Ramos rubbed Zimmermann’s head as they faced the outfield. For at least another day they could peek at the scoreboard and hope.

The Washington Nationals need something close to a miracle to reach the postseason but each win at least buys them another day of relevance another night they can end huddled around clubhouse TVs. Zimmermann delayed their demise with a two-hit shutout in the Nationals’ 8-0 victory over the Marlins. Zimmermann’s gem combined with the Nationals’ 11-batter seven-hit seven-run sixth inning gave the Nationals their 12th win in 14 games and 23rd in 30.

“We’re not mathematically out of it yet” Zimmermann said. “You’ve got to keep fighting until the end and hopefully one of these other two teams tank.”

Once the Nationals returned to their clubhouse they watched the Cincinnati Reds score three runs in the ninth. More than a few curse words could be heard as the game-tying hit trickled into left field. The Nationals had entered the day trailing the Reds by five games for the NL’s second wild card. They may now have to shift allegiances. They trail both the Reds and Pirates by five with eight to play.

“We’re fans of whoever can sweep the other team” Span said.

Zimmermann’s fourth complete game may stand as the finest outing of the Nationals’ season right next to Gio Gonzalez’s one-hit shutout last week in New York. Donovan Solano’s single to center with two outs in the sixth broke up the no-hit bid and their second hit didn’t come until Chris Coghlan singled with two outs in the ninth.

“It’s probably one of the better ones I’ve ever had up here” Zimmermann said. “The bullpen before the game wasn’t that good and I thought it might be a long game. But as soon as I stepped out there and the first inning went on I knew I had some pretty good stuff.”

Zimmermann (19-8) walked one struck out nine and faced three batters more than the minimum. The Marlins hit five balls out of the infield and whiffed at 14 pitches. He asserted his dominance from the start.