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 Zimmermann delivered an RBI single in a three-run fourth inning.
Harper added three hits, Ian Desmond drove in three runs and Denard Span extended his hitting streak to 26 games. A pigeon flying around the field that momentarily distracted Span and first plate umpire Jim Wolf in the eighth inning may have been the only thing to slow the Nationals.
No one proved to be more of a roadblock to Philadelphia’s pitchers than Ramos.
He smacked three run-scoring singles and drilled a towering solo home run in the sixth inning, his 15th, to set a Nationals single-season record for homers by a catcher. He accomplished the feat in only 68 games, having missed 58 games with two hamstring strains.
“I saw him when he was in Minnesota coming up as a kid and in spring training, and there’s no question,” Span said of Ramos. “If he can stay healthy, he can be one of the best catchers in baseball.”
Ramos, 26, never set out to break any records this season; he just wanted to play after missing 137 games last year. After the two setbacks with the hamstring injuries this year, he vowed to prove to the Nationals he could remain healthy. He did so, and in late August they traded away fellow backstop Kurt Suzuki, who hit .222 in 79 games.