After their 149th game last season the Washington Nationals gave this city its first playoff team in 79 years. At the same juncture of this season the Nationals have provided no such joy only glimpses of what could have made up a playoff team. And one such piece is their power-hitting catcher who missed most of last season’s run with a knee injury and two months this season with hamstring strains.

The Nationals cling to the hope that this season’s remaining games might still matter. They are playing their best baseball over the past month and it is a stretch that has been fueled in part by the resolve and production of Wilson Ramos. Starting behind the plate for the 23rd straight game Sunday the longest such streak in the majors this season Ramos matched a career high with five RBI in the Nationals’ 11-2 thrashing of the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Nationals have won 25 of their past 35 and eight of nine. The stretch has made them relevant again after nearly a season’s worth of underachievement. As Bryce Harper talked with reporters in the clubhouse after Sunday’s win Milwaukee’s Sean Halton smashed a walk-off homer off Reds reliever Zach Duke a former National that trimmed the Nats’ deficit to 41 / 2 games behind the Reds for the second wild-card spot with 13 to play. Cheers erupted and smiling players huddled around televisions.

“We have to keep fighting” Ramos said. “We’re in the race for the wild card and I want to keep helping the team to win games. I lost last year the opportunity to play in the playoffs because I had knee surgery and this year I want to help the team to make the playoffs and enjoy that moment.”

Jordan Zimmermann overpowered the Phillies with seven strong innings to notch his National League-leading 18th win allowing only two runs on seven hits and striking out seven. The Nationals matched a season high by pounding out 18 hits. Every starter notched a hit. Even the pitcher Zimmermann delivered an RBI single in a three-run fourth inning.