(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

With Bryce Harper’s expected return to the Nationals on Monday, a lot will be made of his impact on the lineup and defensive alignment — and deservedly so. Harper hasn’t played in two months and the Nationals, solid but inconsistent, could use a spark and another left-handed bat.

“We’ll all seen the impact he can make,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “He’s a pretty special player. You add one more big bat to an already pretty good lineup. It never hurts anything. And a great defender.”

But the recent return of another hitter should not be forgotten nor his impact overstated either. Wilson Ramos returned last week in Chicago after missing 14 games. In the three games since his return, Ramos went 4 for 10 with two walks and a monstrous home run at Wrigley Field. He hit seventh in the lineup in his first game back and then moved up in the order.

Even though he missed 14 games, Ramos’s offense and timing picked back up from where he left off. When he landed on the disabled list on June 11, he was starting to heat up, hitting .321 in the previous 14 games. For the month he was healthy in between his hamate bone surgery and his hamstring strain, Ramos only starting hitting like his old self the final two weeks, working through timing issues and building hand strength. And despite the recent time off, Ramos managed to recapture that timing.

“Since I went on the road trip to San Diego and San Francisco, that helped me a lot,” Ramos said. “I felt comfortable at the plate then. And even though I missed the 15 days because of my hamstring, I didn’t change my routine. I’m doing the same thing. Relaxed, watching pitches and that’s helped me continue batting like this. That’s helping me a lot.”

Nationals catchers rank 25th in the majors in average (.224) and 26th in OPS (.613). With recent offensive struggles by Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa, the Nationals’ lineup has lacked pop of late. A healthy, and more importantly productive, Ramos should have as much of a relative impact as Harper’s return to the lineup.

Ramos “really hasn’t hit that groove yet like we’ve seen when he gets rolling,” LaRoche said. “He’s got as much pop as I’ve seen, not just catchers, but a handful of guys I’ve seen with pop like that. Guy can drive the ball out foul pole to foul pole. And he throws good at-bats together. He’ll shoot the ball the other way if guys are on. Great to have him back.”


All the Nationals are healthy for the first time since opener. Now Matt Williams must decide what to do with them.


Blake Treinen earns first win, works on breaking balls

Bryce Harper to return Monday, barring setbacks

Anthony Rendon’s hot-hitting June continues

Matt Williams says he has a plan for playing time when Bryce Harper returns

Xavier Cedeno to be recalled, Taylor Hill optioned to Syracuse

Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth feel good despite a lot of games

Gio Gonzalez, Nationals unconcerned with velocity


Syracuse 7, Buffalo 0: Aaron Laffey fires seven scoreless innings, striking out three and walking one. Rafael Martin added two scoreless frames. Back from the DL, Destin Hood hit his fifth home run of the season and went 2 for 4. Emmanuel Burriss hit his second home run, and finished 4 for 4 with three runs scored. Jeff Kobernus went 3 for 5.

Akron 11, Harrisburg 2: Brett Brach allowed three runs over five innings, then Scott McGregor gave up three and Bryan Harper allowed four. Kevin Keyes and Drew Vettleson each drove in a run.

Potomac 7, Frederick 1: Austin Voth allowed one run over seven innings and struck out seven. Sam Runion and Gilberto Mendez each fired a scoreless frame. Will Piwnica-Worms hit a two-run shot and Mike McQuillan drove in two.

Delmarva 5, Hagerstown 4: Hector Silvestre allowed four runs on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings. Joseph Webb fired 2 2/3 scoreless innings. James Yezzo and Isaac Ballou each hit their sixth homers.

Batavia 10, Auburn 8: David Fischer took the loss for four runs allowed over 2/3 of an inning. James Borque and Connor Bach each allowed two runs. David Masters hit a two-run home run. Jose Marmolejos-Diaz went 4 for 5 and drove in two runs. Austin Davidson went 2 for 3.