Subplots and crucial moments spilled out of the Nationals’ 7-6 victory today in Cincinnati. Here’s our best try to take on a few of them.
>>> Five games into the season, Wilson Ramos is more than a feel-good story. He has not only recovered from major right knee surgery to earn a role as a co-starting catcher, but also become one of the Nationals’ best offensive weapons.
After he smashed two homers today, Ramos has reached base in 7 of his first 12 plate appearances. He has produced despite batting eighth, in front of the pitcher, a spot that makes many hitters uncomfortable. Ramos has not let it faze him – he swings at the strikes, looks at the balls and takes his at-bat how he wants.
“It’s very hard,” Ramos said. “We want to hit. Every time, we’re waiting for the at-bat. I get mad a little bit when I get an at-bat and I get an intentionally walk. That’s a little bit bad for me. But, you know, I don’t make the lineup. I follow instruction here.”
Ramos’s surge started when he changed his batting stance. He stands in more of a crouch now, he said, which allows him to recognize pitches faster and better focus in on his strike zone. I really like the way he’s swinging the bat,” right fielder Jayson Werth said.
>>> The most overlooked play of today may have been Denard Span’s catch at the wall in the 10th inning. Had he not tracked down Devin Mesoraco’s long drive to the track with Todd Frazier on second base, the Nationals would have lost then and there, a walk-off. Instead, Span made the grab as he leaned into the wall.
It was another example of what Jayson Werth talked about the other day. Span didn’t need to sprint into the fence. He got a good jump, took a direct route and cruised to the spot where the ball would land. He made a tough play look simple.
“He made it look pretty easy,” Werth said. “He probably caught the ball a foot from the wall. I’ve played with guys that are considered extremely good outfielders that jump or are feeling for the wall. He just glides back there and catches it, makes it look easy. Sometimes, that can be a knock against you, if you make it look too easy. Denard, we’re starting to see day-to-day what a tremendous outfielder he is.”
Said Craig Stammen, who allowed Mesoraco’s deep fly: “You can get close to the wall and get alligator arms, chicken arms. But he played it great. And that kind of saved the game for us.”
>>> Werth went 3 for 5 with a double and a home run, continuing his early power display this season. In the 54 regular season games he played after returning from a broken left wrist last year, Werth hit .300 but with only two homers. Now, he’s matched that total in only five games. He insists his wrist is fine, and the results are bearing that out.
“It’s a long season,” Werth said. “You find something. You hold on to it. It’s a rollercoaster ride. It’s going to be up-and-down. While you’re feeling good, you’ve got to ride it out.”
>>> This has already been wild series, with the way the Reds boat-raced the Nationals on Friday and today’s topsy-turvy, extra-inning marathon. It may have been the appetizer for tomorrow. Stephen Strasbrug will face Johnny Cueto to decide the series.
“Two of the best teams in the National League and we got our aces going on the rubber match of the series,” Werth said. “This is what it’s all about. This is why you play. This is why people pay to see us play. It should be a packed house. It should be good.”
There could also be some hard feelings. Ross Detwiler threw fastballs up and in to both Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo. (Ramos, by the way, said the pitches in question nicked Votto but missed Choo.) In the 11th, Ramos took a while to admire his long home run and then took 25 seconds to round the bases. There seemed to be no intent to Detwiler’s pitches or malice to Ramos’s trot. We’ll see if the Reds, who are no strangers to scraps in recent years, see it that way.