Ramos swung at the second pitch he saw, hopped out of the batter’s box and admired the ball as it hurtled over the left field fence. The three-run home run lifted the Nationals to an 8-5 victory and completed his five-RBI, 3-for-4 comeback performance, which pushed the Nationals back above .500.
The crowd refused to stop cheering after Ramos disappeared into the dugout. Teammates Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth yelled at him, “Go out there!” Ramos had only watched other players take curtain calls. As Chad Tracy stepped out of the batter’s box, Ramos climbed the dugout steps. He raised his right hand, still covered in a white batting glove, over his head.
“It was a great moment,” Ramos said. “I have to keep working. A lot’s happened in my career. A lot of bad moments, a lot of good moments. I have to learn from the bad moments and enjoy the good moments.”
The Nationals could celebrate the latest with him. Ramos had bailed out reliever Drew Storen, who squandered a three-run lead in the top of the seventh with a second straight implosion. Making his second career start, right-hander Taylor Jordan allowed two runs over 52
3 innings, walking none as he yielded six hits.
Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano protected the lead with zeros in the eighth and ninth, Soriano picking up his 22nd save. The Nationals’ reworked lineup had given ample support, but it took Ramos, in his first game since May 15, for them to win it.
“You see what the guy has gone through, more than anybody can imagine,” Storen said. “That’s why we were excited to have him back, because he comes up in those big spots. He does big things.”
The Nationals have waited all season for something to spark them. They thought Bryce Harper’s return Monday would provide it. Maybe, they hope now, it will be Ramos. In Ramos’s place, an overworked Kurt Suzuki hit .214 with a .255 on-base percentage and a .275 slugging percentage. Suzuki carries the credentials of a starter, but the Nationals clearly consider Ramos, who will start again Friday, their top catcher.
“This is basically the first time in a long time we had our whole lineup in there,” Manager Davey Johnson said.
Ramos’s presence steadies the Nationals beyond what his three injury-plagued seasons of experience would suggest. In the early innings Thursday, Jordan shook off a few of Ramos’s pitch selections. In the dugout, Desmond told Jordan, “Trust him. He knows what he’s doing.” Jordan nodded. He did not shake off Ramos again.