Having spent the past 44 games on the disabled list, Wilson Ramos’ return to the Nationals lineup on Thursday couldn’t have come soon enough, and the catcher wasted no time reasserting himself.
Ramos plated a career-high five RBI (surpassing his previous high of three) capped by a three-run bomb in the seventh that broke open a tie game and helped lift the Nationals to an 8-5 Independence Day win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
“That pitching must have been awful tough down at Potomac,” quipped Davey Johnson, alluding to Ramos’ struggles to regain his offensive prowess during his rehab stint at High-A Potomac prior to his breakout game Thursday.
While it was just one swing, one can only imagine how therapeutic it must have been for Ramos, watching the ball sail over the visitor’s bullpen in left field, landing in a sea of red-clad fans.
“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.”
With the well-documented turmoil of his past two years, including a twice-strained hamstring this season, it would have been easy to allow for some degree of rust in his first game action since May 15. No such pardons were necessary on Thursday, however. Instead, in his first pressure situation of the day, Ramos poked a sixth-inning, bases-loaded single up the middle to score Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth.
An even bigger opportunity presented itself again just an inning later. After taking a slider for ball one and waiting out a mound conference, Ramos drove Brandon Kintzler’s second slider over the Brewers bullpen, putting Washington ahead for good.
It was the kind of moment that has been eluding the Nationals for most of the year, a clutch, late-game instant that carries the team to victory. But it wasn’t the kind of moment that’s new to Ramos. Just last season, he drilled a bases-loaded, walk-off single up the middle in an 11-inning, 4-3 win against the Phillies to open NATITUDE Weekend. On June 22, 2011, Ramos capped a five-run ninth inning with a three-run walk-off homer for a 6-5 win over the Mariners, one of the most dramatic triumphs in franchise history.
“You see what the guy has gone through, more than anybody can imagine,” Drew Storen said. “That’s why we were excited to have him back, because he comes up in those big spots. He does big things.”
If his first game back forebears any of what he might achieve this season, Ramos could be the missing piece to the Nationals puzzle as they look to take off in the season’s second half.