What to Watch for: 9.13.13

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Philadelphia Phillies (68-78) vs. Washington Nationals (77-69)

RHP Kyle Kendrick (10-12, 4.51) vs. RHP Ross Ohlendorf (3-0, 3.28) 

Lost a bit in the shuffle of Denard Span’s current 23-game hitting streak, another member of the Nationals lineup has put together a noteworthy streak that has not generated nearly the same amount of publicity.

Washington catcher Wilson Ramos, who successfully battled back from hamstring issues earlier in the year, will start his 21st consecutive game behind the plate when the Nationals host the Philadelphia Phillies tonight at 7:05 p.m. at Nationals Park. The streak, rare for a catcher in this era, brings him to within two games of breaking the longest streak of the season for a backstop: the 22 games started by perennial Gold Glove winner Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals, from April 20-May 14.

During the streak, Ramos has contributed at a high level both at the plate and behind it. He has hit five home runs and driven in 16 runs, including a trio of blasts in the past five games, while throwing out 6-of-16 baserunners trying to steal. The latter stat is a welcome development, as his 37.5 percent caught stealing rate over the 20-game stretch is nearly triple the 12.9 percent (12-of-93) rate Nationals catchers had compiled entering play August 22, the first day of the streak.

“When I play every day, I like that, because I’m more consistent at the plate,” Ramos said of starting night in and night out.

More importantly, the Nationals have found a groove during Ramos’s run. They are 15-5 in the 20-straight games in which he has started, as his durability has helped offset the August 23 trade of Kurt Suzuki to the Oakland Athletics.

Since he returned from the disabled list on July 4, Ramos has paced all Major League catchers in both home runs (11) and RBI (41), making the most of his 200 plate appearances in that time. And, for the season, the Nationals have compiled a 40-24 record when Ramos starts, proving his value to a team that has otherwise gone 37-45 when he’s not penciled into Davey Johnson’s lineup card.

“I don’t want a day off right now, when I can do well and win a game,” Ramos said. “It feels great. If we win, why not?” 

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

9. Ross Ohlendorf RHP

PITCHING, IN DEPTH

Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf toes the rubber tonight in place of originally scheduled starter Stephen Strasburg tonight, who was scratched with forearm tightness, but whom Davey Johnson expects to start again on September 19. Washington is 13-7 (.650) in games not started by their Opening Day rotation (Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren, Ross Detwiler). The two replacement starters still currently in the rotation are Ohlendorf (2-0, 3.62 in five starts) and Tanner Roark (2-0, 1.50 in two starts), who are a combined 4-0 as starters and 9-0 overall.

THE LAST ‘STAND

Washington enters the final homestand of the season coming off an 8-2 road trip that has propelled them within 5.5 games of the Cincinnati Reds for the final postseason spot. Washington owns Major League Baseball’s best record dating to August 9 (23-9, .719). In that span, the Nationals have led the National League in runs scored, en route to outscoring their opponents, 170-123. Washington’s current six-game winning streak is the team’s longest of the season.

ATTENTION SPAN

Denard Span has hit safely in a career-high 23 straight games at a .385 (37-for-96) clip with six walks, five doubles, two triples, two homers, 16 runs scored and 7 RBI. Span’s fifth career double-digit hit streak has raised his season batting average from .258 to .281. The streak includes seven multi-hit performances: a four-hit game, five three-hit games, and a single two-hit effort. Span’s streak is both the second longest in MLB this year (CMichael Cuddyer, 27 games) and in the nine-year history of the Nationals (Ryan Zimmerman, 30 games, April 8-May 12, 2009).

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