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Jose saves his best for not likely last start

MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- Jose Fernandez has reached his innings target, but there appears to be no stopping the right-hander from pushing forward as long as the Marlins are within striking distance of a National League Wild Card spot.

Fernandez made a statement on Tuesday night, matching his career high with eight innings with 12 strikeouts in Miami's 1-0 win over the Nationals at Marlins Park.

Full Game Coverage

MIAMI -- Jose Fernandez has reached his innings target, but there appears to be no stopping the right-hander from pushing forward as long as the Marlins are within striking distance of a National League Wild Card spot.

Fernandez made a statement on Tuesday night, matching his career high with eight innings with 12 strikeouts in Miami's 1-0 win over the Nationals at Marlins Park.

Full Game Coverage

Not only was Fernandez dominant in his three-hitter, but he was also free and easy, which has the club confident he isn't tiring at 182 1/3 innings.

The club set a plan in Spring Training to keep him in the 180-190-innings range and have him available for the postseason.

"He already had his mind set, three starts," manager Don Mattingly said. "Obviously, we want to be careful with him, and not for no reason. As long as we're able to stay in this thing, we feel like he's going to be able to go out there. That's why we've given him the breaks all year long."

In his career, Fernandez has made 76 big league starts. None may have been better than Tuesday night.

"I feel like it was the best game he's thrown all year," Mattingly said. "He used his changeup early in the game. That was a weapon for him all game, keeping them off balance. That eighth, to get out of that."

Video: WSH@MIA: Fernandez on his dominant outing vs. Nats

For the first time this season, and just the sixth time in his career, Fernandez completed eighth innings. He limited the Nationals to three hits, retiring 21 straight batters from one out in the first until one out in the eighth.

Fernandez's 12th and final strikeout came on a 90.8-mph changeup that got Danny Espinosa swinging for the second out in the eighth. The Nationals put runners on the corners with one out, and the hard-throwing right-hander got his crucial strikeout.

"Following the scouting report and knowing what I had been throwing to him since the first at-bat," Fernandez said.

Video: WSH@MIA: Bonds congrats Fernandez after scoreless gem

So often, Fernandez goes with the slider for his strikeouts. This time, it was the changeup that got the swing and miss.

"I kind of got a flashback to Spring Training this year or the year before," Fernandez said. "I threw him a breaking ball, and he hit a double down the line. So I kind of thought about that there."

After the Mets lost and the Cardinals won, the Marlins remained four games out of a Wild Card spot with 11 games to go.

"I thought Jose was calm today," Mattingly said. "He wasn't over-throwing. A lot of really good things today."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Miami Marlins, Jose Fernandez