The Nationals are facing some tough math.
Their 3-2 win over the Marlins on Thursday night gained them a half-game on the idle Reds in the race for the National League's second Wild Card spot. But they still trail by five games, and both teams have only nine remaining.
"[Right] now, it's a must-win every day," center fielder Denard Span said after Washington lost to Atlanta on Wednesday. "That's the way we have to approach each and every day from here on out."
That's what they'll do on Friday night against the Marlins for the second of their four-game series. Thursday's victory made the Nationals 14-4 in September -- when they haven't lost consecutive games -- and 7-0 against Miami at home this season.
That's the sort of run many expected from the Nats earlier, and now it might be too late to get them into October.
"You need 25 people. A team has to fit like a glove," manager Davey Johnson said of why things didn't come together sooner. "You need 25 people that are comfortable in a role and are experienced enough to do it at a consistent level. We had a few areas where we were lacking, and a lot of times with a young team when one part's failing, sometimes the other parts try to do too much, and that's the worst thing you can do.
"What I am happy about is that the guys are playing like we know what they're capable of. Like I told them before the '12 season, if we just play up to our potential, we're going to win a pennant."
With every game at a premium, Washington will send Jordan Zimmermann to the hill against Jacob Turner. Zimmermann (18-8, 3.33 ERA) leads the NL in wins and can match the Major League lead held by Detroit's Max Scherzer, who also pitches on Friday.
"It feels good, but then again, I'll trade all those wins in for a spot in the playoffs," Zimmermann said after beating the Phillies on Sunday. "That's the only thing that matters right now. We're playing good ball and scoring some runs, so it's definitely fun."
Zimmermann has posted a 3.15 ERA while winning four of his past five starts and held the Phillies to two runs over seven innings, with seven strikeouts.
Turner (3-7, 3.51) will be making his final start of what manager Mike Redmond called an up-and-down season. The 22-year-old right-hander is 0-3 with a 5.68 ERA over his past five starts, with more walks than strikeouts.
"In Spring Training, it was a struggle for him," Redmond said. "He went down to the Minor Leagues, and he got himself straightened out and he showed what he is capable of doing, and the type of pitcher that he is."
Turner reached 179 total innings between the Minors and Majors after going five and giving up three runs against the Mets on Saturday.
"With young guys, we talk about consistency and being able to do it, start after start," Redmond said. "I think he probably has a little bit of fatigue -- probably physical and mental fatigue. It's been a long year for all these guys.
"I think he will be way better off down the road having gone through this experience, and having to grind through it and figure it out. You see with his stuff, and you see what he has. He knows he can get Major League hitters out, and so do we."
Marlins: Lucas closing strong
Third baseman Ed Lucas has hit safely in 10 of his past 11 games and has recorded multiple hits in six of his past seven. In 15 September contests, the 31-year-old rookie is 20-for-57 (.351) with seven doubles and a home run.
That includes a 3-for-4 effort on Thursday. The day before, he became the fifth Marlins rookie to hit a game-winning home run in extra innings and the first since Robert Andino on April 1, 2008, according to STATS LLC.
• Outfielder Juan Pierre, with 2,215 career hits, needs one to pass Joe DiMaggio on the all-time list.
Nationals: Desmond sticking it out
Although shortstop Ian Desmond has been dealing with a minor hamstring issue, he hasn't missed a start since Aug. 22 and has been in the lineup for all but three games this season.
"[He] hasn't come in and said, 'I need a day off,' and I'm certainly not gonna ask him," Johnson said. "I love to watch him play."
Johnson added that if Desmond did miss a start, rookie September callup Zach Walters would take his spot. Walters, who played mainly shortstop at Triple-A Syracuse, has appeared in five games for Washington without making a start.
• Right-hander Stephen Strasburg, scratched twice from his latest start, still is scheduled to take the mound on Saturday. Johnson emphasized that it was his decision to push Strasburg back from Thursday. Despite some tightness in Strasburg's forearm, he wanted to pitch and was cleared by doctors.
• Span's 29-game hit streak, the longest in the Majors this season, ended with an 0-for-4 night on Thursday.
• The Marlins have lost 11 of their past 14.
• Zimmermann is 2-0 with a 2.40 ERA in two starts against the Marlins this season, with both coming in April.
• The Nats reached Turner for five runs on nine hits over four innings on Sept. 8.