Wilson Ramos went 0-for-4 on Saturday and saw his batting average drop to .154. With the Nationals scheduled to wrap up their weekend series against the Mets with a traditional Sunday afternoon game, the recently injured catcher figured to get a standard day off to rest his legs and clear his mind.
Ramos, though, went into manager Matt Williams' office Saturday night and made it clear he wanted to be right back in the lineup Sunday. He played 23 straight games late last season and saw how that helped him produce at the plate. He believed he made good contact on Saturday and that he would do something significant in this series finale if given the opportunity to play.
"When I play every other day, it's hard," he said. "You feel hot one day, and then you get a day off, you can get bad. Yesterday I was feeling good, I was hitting the ball well. So I talked to him and I said I want to play tomorrow. Because I know every time I play games straight, I feel better and better and better."
Ramos certainly knows himself, because he delivered on his promise during the Nationals' 6-3 victory over the Mets. Catching for the third straight day, he went 2-for-3 with a walk, driving in four runs and helping pick up an injury-plagued lineup.
"There was a conversation last night about how he felt," Williams said. "He was adamant about playing today, because he felt it was coming along."
The Nationals need Ramos, who missed more than a month with a broken bone in his left hand, now more than ever. With Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche all on the disabled list, the pressure falls to the man now hitting cleanup to produce the big hits normally reserved for those big bats.
Ramos, though, has always shown a penchant for coming through in key spots. After returning last July 4 from a pair of hamstring injuries, he led the club in RBI the rest of the season.
The key to Ramos' success in those situations?
"His heart rate doesn't increase," Williams said. "And that's key for anybody in the middle of the lineup driving in runs. You see that with Jayson (Werth), you see it with him. You see it with Zim. It’s no different at-bat just because there's guys out there. And he has a good idea on what the guy is going to try and do to him. The situation of the game, what that dictates. It's good."
"I just concentrate on waiting for my pitch and making good contact," he said. "That's what I look for. I'm not looking to hit a homer, nothing like that. I try to hit a homer, every time I look for that, I hit a groundball to short or a groundball to second. So I just try to make good contact and see what happens."
The Nationals also got a pick-me-up on Sunday from Ian Desmond, who homered for the second straight day and is now 9 for his last 26 with three homers, a triple and eight RBI. Given the injuries that have decimated their lineup through the season's first two months, they desperately need the remaining healthy regulars to start producing at higher levels.
The signs right now suggest Ramos and Desmond are doing just that. For Ramos, it's simple. Plenty of guys picked up the Nationals while he was injured. It's time for him to return the favor.
"That's what I want to do," he said. "I want to help those guys keep their heads up, keep working hard. That's what I did when I was on the DL. I never put my head down. That way, when you come back, you come back strong. Don't ever get down."