Results tagged ‘ Wilson Ramos ’
Most Spring Training camps are full of stories of roster battles, of a number of players competing for a lone spot among the 25 that will begin Opening Day in the big league uniform. The Nationals have been one of those clubs in the past, but sit in Viera this year with all but one or two of those roster spots decided. As such, the most compelling stories are those of the comeback variety, those like the story of Wilson Ramos, which, after a couple years of setbacks, had a positive chapter written over the weekend.
After enduring a terrifying ordeal in the offseason prior to 2012, Ramos was excited to move on with a breakout performance on the field last year. That hope was dashed when retrieving a ball behind the plate early last May, as his foot snagged in the wet Cincinnati grass but his knee followed his body’s momentum, tearing ligaments and ending his season. On Sunday, after months of rehab, of grinding, hard work, he finally stepped into a batter’s box in a game for the first time.
“I was a little bit nervous,” Ramos admitted. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a pitch from the mound.
One could forgive Ramos for being a little over-anxious in his first at-bat, entering as the DH in the seventh inning. He rolled a ball over to third base, testing his knee in action for the first time as he ran to first base. That seemed like it might be his only chance of the afternoon, but as the score leveled at 6-6, the Nationals batted again in the bottom of the ninth, with Ramos leading off. He battled through a tough at-bat, fighting out of an early hole and fouling off pitches, eventually forcing a full count. Then he blasted a high fastball to the right-center field gap, deep into the wind and almost gone to one of the deepest parts of Space Coast Stadium. He pulled in at second base with a double and a rousing round of applause from the home crowd.
Pulled for pinch-runner Sandy Leon, Ramos’ contribution would lead to the victory, as the Nationals would walk off with a 7-6 victory two batters later on Zach Walters’ RBI-single through the drawn-in infield. For Ramos, it was the first step back to doing what he loves.
“That’s a big step for me today,” he said. “Now I’m very excited and I want to be behind the plate.”
He got that chance Tuesday against the Astros, where he caught the first three innings of game action for the first time since last season.
Here’s a complete list of the Nationals Spring Training results to date.
Overall Record: 4-3-2
2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3
2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2
2/25 @ New York (NL) – W, 6-4
2/26 @ Atlanta – L, 9-5
2/27 vs. Miami – L, 5-1
2/28 vs. New York (NL) – T, 4-4
3/1 @ Atlanta – W, 6-5
3/2 @ St. Louis – W, 6-2
3/3 vs. St. Louis – W, 7-6
Well, I am on the ground for my seventh spring in Viera, where last week’s cold snap is now a distant memory and sunny and 70+ is the norm. Welcome to Spring Training 2013!
This is the place to be if you are a Nationals fan. I hope that over the next few weeks, I can share some of the sights, sounds and vibe from our camp. If I had to sum up Camp Davey 2013, it would be “professional, but very comfortable.”
And this is the place to be if you are a member of the baseball media. In speaking to our Media Relations folks, they assure me that this team is now officially on the radar. There is not a national baseball writer worth his salt that won’t find our club at some point this spring. MLB Network, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and Fox are all writing about us, not to mention the increased coverage from nationals.com, the Washington Post and The Washington Times. They’ll all find their way to Space Coast Stadium, perhaps even for multiple visits. This has never been the case, even with gradually rising expectations entering last season.
By the way…how about Bryce Harper’s Sports Illustrated cover story last week!?
So, enjoy the extra coverage. Hopefully it helps all of our fans up north escape the cold winter mentally, even if only for a few minutes every day. Thankfully, the exhibition game against the Yankees on Friday, March 29 at Nationals Park and Opening Day on April 1 are just around the corner.
As everyone knows, this is Davey Johnson’s final camp at the helm. He set quite a tone this offseason with his declaration of “World Series or bust.” Has anyone ever carried such overt confidence with the ease that Davey does? That is Davey in a nutshell: he’s unique. How about last year? Remember when he said (paraphrasing) “they should fire me if we don’t make the playoffs?” He and Mike Rizzo obviously knew something about that club earlier than everyone else. It was quite a season.
- Congratulations to Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez, who will represent us on Team USA, and Roger Bernadina who will represent the Netherlands in next month’s World Baseball Classic. What a fantastic honor for them and for our ballclub. Team USA’s pitching staff will feature two of our finest. I suppose this is when nationalism meets NATITUDE?
- Best of luck to our friend Joe Torre, who will manage Team USA in the WBC. From my seat, the WBC gets bigger and better every go around.
- My favorite sight of the young spring was Wilson Ramos in a crouch, catching multiple bullpens. Wilson’s spirits are so much higher right now than they were last summer. And for good reason. He is currently in a good place both mentally and physically.
- Speaking of catchers, I was talking to seven-time Gold Glover Bob Boone and he swears that he has never seen a catching corps with as much depth as ours this spring. Our fourth and fifth catchers will be better than some club’s backup catchers when Opening Day hits. Perhaps even a few front-line backstops. And consider, we have traded away a pair of highly thought of catchers in the last 15 months or so in Derek Norris and David Freitas.
- We are still waiting for his Grapefruit League debut, but Dan Haren has lived up to his billing so far. Davey told me that Dan’s initial bullpens were something to behold. He was painting the corners. It will be a shock if he walks more than two batters in any game.
- Lots of media talk about how 23 of the 25 spots on the Opening Day roster are accounted for. I am not sure this is the case, but let’s not forget that injuries hit and hinder baseball more than any other sport. I just looked this up, but last year’s NL East champs used 43 players. We won the division by 4.0 games (over the Braves) and claimed the best record in baseball by 1.0 game (over the Reds). Think we win the NL East without the contributions of Bryce Harper, Tyler Moore, Sandy Leon, Jhonatan Solano or Christian Garcia? It would have been extremely difficult, considering none of the aforementioned players were on the Opening Day roster.
- Who is going to make lasting first impressions this year? Anthony Rendon sure is off to a hot start. Matt Skole, Nathan Karns and Eury Perez look great also. It is early, but we have a lot of great young talent around here.
Until we blog again…
Some of our Top 12 of ’12 are all about context; they are big moments specifically because of when they happened. When Wilson Ramos flew to his walk-off, the drama was heightened because it was the first game of the year against the rival Phillies. When Ian Desmond “dunked” vs. the Diamondbacks, the home run was magnified by the fact that the Nats trailed with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. When The Shark flew into the crevasse in front of the visitor’s bullpen at Minute Maid Park, the significance of the catch itself was magnified by its game-saving nature. Moment Number 3 requires no such context.
On September 29, in the middle contest of a three-game set in St. Louis, the Nationals loaded the bases with one out in the top of the first inning, thanks to a Bryce Harper single, Ryan Zimmerman double and Adam LaRoche walk. That brought up Michael Morse, who drove the first pitch from Kyle Lohse to the opposite field, the ball carrying over Carlos Beltran’s head in right towards the wall. Although it appeared to clear the wall, then bounce back onto the field, the ball was ruled in play. Confusion reigned on the basepaths, as Zimmerman retreated to third, forcing LaRoche back to second, and a once-trotting Morse scampering back to first, where he was tagged before sliding back into the bag. The umpires went to video to confirm exactly what had happened, and emerged a few minutes later from the clubhouse tunnel signaling for the grand slam.
Then, things got really weird. The runners had begun the slow trot around the bags (again), but were ordered back to their original bases to play out the home run in full effect. Harper was brought back out of the dugout to third, with the domino effect pushing a confused Morse all the way back to the batter’s box. As the broadcasters chuckled in amazement, Morse looked back at Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, wondering exactly what to do once he had returned to the box. He decided to pantomime the swing once more, with no bat in hand, then began his trot around the bases. With over 42,000 confused fans in the stands and both Washington broadcast teams doubled over in their respective booths, the Beast rounded the bags, slapped his helmet, and returned to the dugout with a four-run lead, MLB’s Oddity of the Year, and the first home run ever hit in the Major Leagues without a bat.
With months’ worth of build up and anticipation leading into NATITUDE Weekend, Nationals fans were ready to explode with enthusiasm. And despite the Nats hot start and the Phillies slumping out of the gates, the two teams were separated by just 4.5 games entering their first matchup of the 2012 season on May 4. The opening game of the series saw Washington fall behind twice by two runs, but the hometown nine battled back with single tallies in the sixth and eighth innings to tie the game at three runs apiece, eventually forcing extra innings.
The game remained tied into the bottom of the 11th when, with two out, Steve Lombardozzi singled. Bryce Harper then worked the count full, eventually drawing a walk, and Jayson Werth took a free pass as well to load the bases for the pitcher’s spot in the lineup. Down to his final reserve player on the bench, Davey Johnson took the gamble and pinch-hit Wilson Ramos, who fell into a 1-2 hole against Phillies reliever Michael Schwimmer. The right-handed pitcher tried to throw a slider off the plate away, but the Washington backstop reached out and served it into center field, Lombadozzi racing home with the winning run. As Ramos cruised up the first base line, he turned his outstretched arms into wings, carrying the Nationals to an epic, walk-off win.
It’s December, the time of year for oversized family meals, eggnog, lots of gift-giving, and colder weather (eventually… we think). The end of the year also brings about all of the “Best Of” lists. With so many signature moments to choose from this year, we thought we’d let you vote on the Top 12 of ’12, the best of the best in an unforgettable year.
Watch the videos below, then go to the bottom of the page to cast your vote. Our poll is an open one, meaning you can vote for as many different moments as many times as you would like through Thursday at noon. However, we’re keeping the results secret, and will begin unveiling our list with Number 12 on Thursday afternoon. Which moment deserves to be Number One? You decide.
Opening Day Walk-off (4/12 vs. CIN)
After Gio Gonzalez introduced himself to the Nationals faithful with a gem in the home opener, Ryan Zimmerman scampered home on a wild pitch in the 10th inning to give the Nationals a walk-off win.
Desmond’s “Dunk” (5/2 vs. ARI)
Trailing by a run with two outs in the ninth, all while sitting on a season-high, five-game losing streak, Ian Desmond delivered the biggest blast of his season, a two-run, game-winning bomb to the visiting bullpen in left-center field.
Ramos Flies To Victory on NATITUDE Weekend (5/4 vs. PHI)
In Washington’s first meeting with the five-time defending division champion Phillies, the teams battled into the 11th before Wilson Ramos, the last bat on the bench, delivered a bases-loaded single up the middle to send the crowd into a frenzy as he sailed up the first base line.
Harper Steals Home (5/6 vs. PHI)
Phillies hurler Cole Hamels thought he’d welcome Bryce Harper to the big leagues by plunking him with the first pitch of his first at-bat. Harper responded by racing first-to-third on a two-out single, then breaking for the plate on Hamels’ lazy pick-off throw to first, swiping home for his first Major League steal.
Teenage Dream (6/5 vs. NYM)
After Desmond tied the game three times late, Harper delivered the first walk-off of his career (and the first by a teenager in Major League Baseball since 1988) in the bottom of the 12th inning.
Old School Walk-off (7/5 vs. SF)
On Turn Back the Clock Night, with both teams sporting their 1924-era jerseys, the Nationals completed a three-game sweep of San Francisco by coming back late against Matt Cain and – just like the Senators did against the Giants in ’24 – walking off to victory.
Beast of a Comeback (7/29 @ MIL)
Sometimes, one set of late heroics isn’t enough. That was no problem for Michael Morse, who delivered a game-tying, two-run home run in the ninth, followed by a game-winning, two-run double in the 11th to lead the Nats past the Brewers, 11-9, in one of the craziest games of the year.
“The Catch” (8/7 @ HOU)
There were plenty of great catches in Major League Baseball this year, but few were more important than the improbable, disappearing act grab that Roger “The Shark” Bernadina pulled out of his hat, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
Gi-000000000 (8/31 vs. STL)
As dominant as Gio Gonzalez can be, he had yet to notch a complete game shutout on his impressive resume. That all changed on August 31 against the defending champs, as he blanked the Cardinals for nine frames to earn his 17th win of the year.
Dirty Dozen (9/4-5 vs. CHC)
The Nationals set a club record, blasting six home runs to beat the Cubs on September 4. How did they follow up that epic performance? By blasting six more the very next night, including three in one inning (the “Nat Trick”). All told, eight different players got in on the act, with Adam LaRoche accounting for three of the bombs.
Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 06, 2012
Morse’s Phantom Grand Slam (9/29 @ STL)
What do you do when your grand slam – initially ruled a single – is upheld on video replay? If you’re Michael Morse, you head back around the bases, all the way to the batter’s box, then toss in a phantom swing for good measure before heading into your trot.
Werth Game 4 Walk-off (10/11 vs. STL)
When you’re embroiled in a classic postseason battle, with neither team giving an inch, the game often comes down to one pitch. For Jayson Werth, Game 4 of the NLDS came down to the 13th pitch of the longest at-bat of his career, which he hammered into a red sea of deafening euphoria for the win.
The Washington Nationals enjoyed unprecedented success in 2012, recording the best record in Major League Baseball. The team relied on the contributions of many different players, whom we will catalogue throughout the offseason as we look ahead to the 2013 campaign. After a short hiatus, we are back at it with one of the Washington backstops, catcher Jesus Flores.
With the myriad of injuries beset upon the Nationals catching crew in 2012, there was one constant behind the plate, one man who was there, day in, day out, working with the pitching staff. Jesus Flores had nearly as many at-bats (277) as the fellow quintet of backstops he shared time with combined (303), appearing in over half of Washington’s games this year. Defensively, he caught nearly 47 percent of all innings thrown in 2012 by Nationals pitchers.
Flores was thrust into the starting role after Wilson Ramos tore his ACL on a rainy Saturday night, May 12 in Cincinnati. When Chase Headley ran over Sandy Leon – the latter only a couple innings into his Major League debut – just 72 hours later, even more pressure landed on Flores to handle the league’s best pitching staff. He responded both defensively and offensively with his best stretch of the season, batting .320/.352/.500 through June 3, his first 15 games following Ramos’ injury.
Flores’ offensive contributions this season were sometimes obscured, though. His first home run of the year was overshadowed almost immediately, as it was followed by Stephen Strasburg’s first roundtripper of his Major League career, when the duo went back-to-back off Orioles starter Wie-Yen Chen on May 20 at Nationals Park. Flores’ next three longballs all came against Atlanta, each in crucial wins. He opened the scoring off Brandon Beachy with a solo shot in the fifth inning of a 2-0 victory on June 2, then went deep against Randall Delgado on June 29 to help Washington to a 5-4 triumph. Finally, his three-run blast off Paul Maholm on August 21 provided the difference in a 4-1 Nationals victory.
Meanwhile, the backstop continued to improve defensively. After never posting a range factor above 7.00, Flores notched a 9.16 mark over 80 games in 2012, while logging a career-high 687.2 innings behind the plate. He held down the fort throughout the spring and early summer until the arrival of Kurt Suzuki in early August, at which point he returned to his backup role for the stretch run.
With Ramos set to return sometime next spring, the Nationals will have some decisions to make about the future of their deep and experienced catching corps. Flores is entering the final of his four arbitration years (he was a Super Two, starting back in 2010), and is set to become a free agent after the 2013 season.
Every signature moment in this 2012 Washington Nationals season has composed its own storyline. With dramatic victories woven throughout the tapestry of a thrilling campaign, it would have been understandable to expect some sort of coup de gras to cap off a season’s worth of celebration. Maybe the Nationals didn’t provide the storybook clinching moment that television producers dream of, with a dog-pile on the pitcher’s mound, as they missed their first chance to wrap up the division title on Sunday in St. Louis. There was a pretty brilliant, sparkling silver lining, though, knowing that the team would return home leading by 3.0 games with three games left on the regular season slate.
That presented the opportunity to clinch the division at home against the five-time defending division champion Phillies, who had thrice celebrated their own glory with wins over the Nationals. But what if Washington didn’t win, and instead had to rely on Atlanta, one of the hottest teams in baseball down the stretch, to lose? Would that turn of events scrub some of the luster from Washington’s shiny division crown?
On Sunday afternoon, more than 24 hours before the division would be decided, Nationals broadcaster Dave Jageler refused to allow such a scenario to take anything away from the accomplishment.
“There’s no such thing as ‘backing in’ when you win 96 games,” he declared.
Based on the celebrations taking place on the field Monday night – after the Nationals 2-0 loss to the Phillies became a mere footnote in their 2012 National League East Championship season, thanks to the Braves 2-1 defeat in Pittsburgh – the players agreed. While they maintained their composure nearly two weeks earlier, following the clinch of the first postseason berth in D.C. baseball since 1933, they held nothing back upon taking the division.
They jumped around in jubilation, spraying each other with any beverage available. When Mike Rizzo was being interviewed live on MASN, Wilson Ramos emptied an entire bottle of champagne over his head. As soon as players huddled together in the clubhouse in celebration, Michael Morse unleashed a tidal wave of water from a Gatorade bucket into the middle of the fray. By the end of the night, Jayson Werth’s home white number 28 jersey was stained pink from his red undershirt bleeding through the mix of beverages.
“It was kind of odd,” said Werth, of the way the evening unfolded. “We’re getting beat, but we’re celebrating. But this team deserves this. We’ve come a long way.”
This was, after all, what Werth envisioned when he made the decision to leave the team occupying the visitor’s dugout for the final series of the regular season to join the Nationals before the 2011 campaign. He has become a leader on this Washington club, not only taking rookie Bryce Harper under his wing, but guiding the offense at the top of the lineup since his return from a broken wrist in early May. He is batting .308 with a .392 on-base percentage, scoring 32 runs over 53 games during that span, and his ability to continue to set the table will be key for the Nationals in the postseason.
“It’s gratifying, it’s quite an accomplishment,” he said, of winning the division. “We’ve come quite a long way in a very short time, and we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a good young club. I think we should do this every year.”
Before Werth’s strong stretch drive, and before Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse helped Washington assert itself as one of the National League’s top offensive clubs in the second half of the season, another veteran made his biggest mark on this team. Adam LaRoche carried the club through the early part of the year, on his way to matching his career-high in home runs with 32, sitting just one RBI shy of the century mark with two games to play. For his efforts, he will be rewarded with his first trip to the postseason since 2005.
“It means a lot personally,” said LaRoche as he gazed up from the field at the fans behind the Nationals dugout, still screaming and cheering nearly an hour after the end of the game. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the playoffs.”
Asked if he had forgotten the feeling of clinching, the mix of ecstasy, accomplishment and relief, he admitted that he had.
“You do, when it’s been this long,” he said. “You see the other team celebrate, you want to be out there and be a part of it. There’s a big difference.”
Amid the mess of congratulatory hugs, handshakes and post-game interviews, one tall, shaggy-haired man stood to the side, shivering in the cool fall night, his freshly printed NL East Champions shirt already steeped in celebration. Perhaps no man’s journey to standing on this field, literally soaking in the division title, was as trying as John Lannan’s, who took his first loss in six starts for the Nationals this season Monday night, despite pitching well yet again. It was his first start, the back-end of a doubleheader on July 21, that proved to be a turning point for Washington, stopping the division-rival Braves after they had narrowed the division gap to a game-and-a-half, never letting them pull any closer. Looking up at the fans, he was happy to enjoy every bit of the moment at hand.
“This has been awesome,” he said of the celebration. “These guys (the fans), they deserve it as much as we do. It’s something special. I’m just glad to be a part of it. The win would have been icing on the cake, but as soon as the champagne was popped, it was all forgotten.”
The man who seemed to be enjoying the moment the most, though, may have been Gio Gonzalez, who alternated celebrating with his teammates, family and the fans, ducking in and out of interviews. His Cy Young-worthy season has marked the difference between a team that may have simply been competitive and one that has brought the first division title to D.C. in 79 years. Coming from an Oakland team that never made the playoffs during his tenure, his first taste of such success left him living in the moment, riding the wave of emotion, not worrying yet about the challenges that lie ahead.
“This is unbelievable,” he exclaimed. “I don’t want to wake up, boys. I’m still dreaming.”
Here’s to hoping the dream doesn’t end until November.
If there is a theme that has defined this season for the Washington Nationals, it may just be that no matter the opponent or the type of game, more likely than not the team seems to be able to find a way to end up on the right side of the final score. Following last night’s wild, 13-inning win over the division rival Braves, the Nats are now tied for second place in the Major Leagues with nine walk-off wins, which have come in nearly every manner one could imagine.
It all began on Opening Day, as Ryan Zimmerman scored on a wild pitch in extra innings. Since then, there have been clutch, game-winning, extra-inning hits by Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos and Bryce Harper. Ian Desmond has sent the Nats home happy twice, once on a sacrifice fly, and once with a dramatic home run. Of course, there was the crazy, 4-6 fielder’s choice hit by Adam LaRoche against the Giants on July 5th that allowed Harper to score the winning run. Then, Zimmerman scored again to win on a wild pitch just 12 days later against the Mets. But were any of those endings as improbable as the one that took place Monday night?
Werth nearly (effectively) ended the game in the eighth, as his bid for a two-out, tie-breaking grand slam came up a few feet short in the left field corner. LaRoche just missed his own chance for walk-off glory in the 10th inning, his towering fly ball to right field coming to rest in Jason Heyward’s mitt a step in front of the wall. And Werth again nearly sent the crowd into a frenzy in the 11th, backing up Heyward again, who had to jump at the wall in right to corral the ball. And while a big hit nearly decided things on three separate occasions, in the end, it came down to the littlest of little things, which the Nationals got right and the Braves got wrong.
After Danny Espinosa was unable to advance Desmond – the runner at first following a leadoff single, who was forced out at second on a bunt attempt – he more than atoned for his poor small-ball execution. On a check-swing chopper off the plate by Kurt Suzuki, Espinosa raced to second base, and seeing that third baseman Chipper Jones and shortstop Paul Janish had both converged with catcher Brian McCann not covering, he continued all the way to third. That put runners at the corners with just one out, forcing the Braves to pull the infield in. That setup created an entirely different scenario as Chad Tracy stepped to the plate, the winning run just 90 feet away.
While the focus of what happened next will remain on Dan Uggla, Suzuki’s role in causing the moment of confusion needed for Espinosa to score should not be overlooked. Instead of running full bore towards second base, the Nationals catcher stopped just a couple of steps off the bag and waited. By not moving into Uggla’s line, he was able to take away any chance of a tag-and-throw double play. With the speed of Espinosa, that was really Uggla’s only play. In fact, if you watch the video, he never really squares himself to throw home, indicating that the double play was very much on his mind. But once Suzuki stalled, that became impossible, and the game was already over.
Lost in the madness is the fact that the Nationals became the first team in the Major Leagues to 76 wins, moving them 30 games over .500 for the first time in franchise history. They also expanded their NL East lead to 6.0 games over Atlanta, surpassing the 5.5-game advantage the 2005 Nationals held on July 3 for the largest division lead in franchise history since the team moved to Washington.
You don’t get to 30 games over .500 without finding new and creative ways to win. The Nationals have done just that to get where they are today.
New York Mets (57-63) vs. Washington Nationals (74-46)
RHP Jeremy Hefner (2-4, 4.76) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (15-6, 3.29)
Washington never got going as the New York Mets shut out the Nationals 2-0 Saturday night to even the series at a game apiece. In today’s rubber match, Gio Gonzalez will be opposed by righty Jeremy Hefner, who has suffered two of his four losses this year in his previous two starts against Washington, allowing five runs (and three home runs) in 12 innings of work.
1. Werth RF
2. Harper CF
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Morse LF
6. Desmond SS
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Suzuki C
9. Gonzalez LHP
THE STAKES AT HAND
Having split a pair here in D.C., the Nationals and Mets will settle the series outcome with today’s rubber game. The Nationals are 5-2 in rubber games this year, having won on August 15 at San Francisco (6-4), July 1 at Atlanta (8-4), June 21 vs. Tampa Bay (5-2), May 3 vs. Arizona (2-1) and April 11 at NYM (4-0).
Despite missing significant time due to injuries to Michael Morse, Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos, the Nationals have hit 129 homers in 120 games or 1.08 long balls per contest. In seven previous years in D.C., Washington hit more than 1.0 home run per game only once: in ‘06 the Nationals blasted 164 long balls in 162 games (1.01 per game).
D.C.’S DYNAMIC DUO
Thanks to DL stints for Morse and Zimmerman, Washington played the season’s first 50 games with only one or none of their middle-of-the-order bats. In those 50 games, the Nationals went 29-21 (.580) and averaged 3.8 runs per game. In 66 games with both in the lineup, Washington is 44-22 (.667) and is averaging 5.0 runs per contest (without either Morse or Zimmerman, Washington is 1-3 and averaging 2.5 runs per game since June 2).
As we hit the home stretch of the regular season, there will be much use of the “C” word, as people refer to the various opportunities the Nationals could clinch: a potential playoff spot, possibly a division title, even home-field advantage. But on Wednesday, August 15, the Nationals already clinched something significant. By winning their 41st road game, they broke the previous franchise mark for victories away from Washington D.C. (40 in 2005), thereby guaranteeing themselves a winning road record in the 2012 season.
To really appreciate how good the Nationals have been on the road this season, consider the following: at 41-23, their .640 road winning percentage is not simply the best in the league, it’s better than any other team’s home winning percentage. In other words, at this juncture in the season, Washington statistically stands a better chance to win on the road than any team that hosts them.
For some perspective, imagine this: the last team to accomplish this feat for a full season was the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who went an otherworldly 59-22 (.728) away from Safeco Field on their way to a 116-win season. Not even the 1998 Yankees, who went an astounding 52-29 (.642) away from New York in a 114-win campaign, finished the season with a better road record than the rest of baseball’s home marks. All three National League division winners (Braves: 56-25, Astros: 55-26, Padres: 54-27) were better at home that year.
All of this is even more encouraging knowing that they will see Ian Desmond – who has been sidelined with an oblique injury since shortly after the All-Star break – activated for Friday night’s series opener against the Mets. After he took his first full workout on Tuesday in San Francisco, Desmond decided to have a little fun with his manager, giving him a scare about the timetable for his return.
“I’m hurting,” he told Davey Johnson following his first session of hitting again at full strength. “My ears are hurting from the loud sounds coming off my bat.”
And while Washington will not get catcher Wilson Ramos back until next season, with Desmond’s return they will field the healthiest version of their projected everyday lineup so far this season. Nationals fans have yet to see Desmond, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse all on the same field at the same time. It is conceivable that in spite of the club’s unprecedented success thus far in 2012, that the Nationals best baseball is yet to come.
If so, there is no better time for it than this week in Washington, where they will face the division rival Mets and Braves. While the Mets have dropped off the pace in the NL East race, they remain a dangerous club with tough pitching, including former Cy Young Award-winner Johan Santana, who throws in the series opener on Friday. And we hardly need to tell you the importance of the Braves series, which will see two of the top three teams in the National League dueling it out for NL East supremacy and postseason positioning. As others have noted, it may be the most important series played in our Nation’s Capital in several generations. So it is comforting to know that the Nationals are not only playing some of their best baseball yet, but there are reinforcements on the way as well.