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Ramos hitting (and catching) like never before

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Ramos hitting (and catching) like never before

PHOENIX — The Nationals have always known Wilson Ramos could hit, with the obvious caveat always inserted to the end of that statement: “If he stays healthy.”

Well, Ramos has stayed healthy through the season’s first six weeks. And he has hit. The question is: Could the Nationals have known he could hit quite like this, with a .320 batting average that ranks among the league leaders and a 14-game hitting streak that is the majors’ current best?

“We know he can hit,” manager Matt Williams said. “For him, it’s a question of health and being able to get out there every day. We’re trying to pick our spots in giving him days off and making sure we take care of him, too. But the way he’s hitting, he’s a vital part of our offense.”

It’s tough to fault the logic, because Ramos has been key to the Nationals’ offensive resurgence over the last two weeks. His 14-game hitting streak began four nights before the Nats’ record-setting comeback win in Atlanta, which has sparked this team to 11 wins in its last 13 games entering Tuesday.

Ramos’ .320 batting average leads all qualified NL catchers and ranks second only to Oakland’s Stephen Vogt among all MLB catchers.

“I feel comfortable at the plate right now,” he said. “I’m working in the cage with [hitting coach] Rick Schu. He helps me a lot. And I’m doing my routine. That routine helps me to concentrate and get a good pitch to hit. That’s what I’m doing right now. I have to keep it going. That’s good for me, good for the team, because I’m helping the team a lot. That’s my job. I have to keep it going.”

A career .269 hitter prior to this season, Ramos has taken his game to another level. One key: He has made progress in laying off pitches outside the zone, a longstanding issue. His strikeout rate of 14.8 percent is down from 16.1 percent entering 2015.

“I feel like the experience I’ve got the past few years has helped me to go out and play and be more patient, get a good pitch to hit,” he said. “Sometimes, I try to do too much. That’s the reason I miss a ball. But that happens in the game. The game’s emotions made me do that. But I have to keep doing what I’m doing, be more patient, get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on the ball.”

Ramos also has to keep himself in the lineup, something he’s never been able to do in his career. He has, however, worked extensively on physical conditioning, particularly in his legs, and on Tuesday was scheduled to catch his 27th game, putting him on pace for 129 games behind the plate this season. (Only Cardinals All-Star Yadier Molina has caught more games so far among NL catchers in 2015.)

“I know it’s a tough position, but I’m working every day with my legs, that helps me to be behind the plate for a lot of games,” Ramos said. “That’s what I want to do. In the beginning of the season, in spring training, I said I want to catch 120-130 games. That’s my goal for this year. I have to keep it going, keep working.”

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Trea Turner hits for cycle against Rockies for the second time in his career

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USA Today

Trea Turner hits for cycle against Rockies for the second time in his career

For the second time in his career, Trea Turner has hit for the cycle against the Rockies. This time, he did it in Nats Park. 

Turner started his day in the first inning with a solo shot to left-center to open the scoring for the Nationals. A fortunate bounce yielded an infield single in the second inning, and he smashed a liner into the right-field corner in the fifth. A double for most players, Turner's trademark speed enabled him to stretch it into a triple.

With a comfortable 8-0 lead in the seventh, Turner sent a 98 mph fastball into the gap in right-center field, completing the cycle and capping off an incredible night for the Nats. 

Turner is the fourth player to hit for the cycle this season, and the 27th since 1908 to do it multiple times in his career

 

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Max Scherzer's named Thursday's starter and penciled in for the postseason

Max Scherzer's named Thursday's starter and penciled in for the postseason

WASHINGTON -- So, it’s settled: Max Scherzer will pitch Thursday.

The Nationals’ best pitcher played catch in right field Tuesday. He felt well a day after a full bullpen session. He, finally, is aligned to make his first start since July 6.

Why Thursday? Well, this is where things are more interesting. Davey Martinez and his staff mapped out Scherzer’s possible starts from Thursday to the end of the season to see how he lines up if he would pitch every fifth game (not every fifth day because of scheduled off-days). If he pitches Thursday, this is how the rest of his season would look:

July 25 vs. Colorado

July 30 vs. Atlanta

Aug. 5 at San Francisco

Aug. 11 at New York

Aug. 17 vs. Milwaukee

Aug. 22 at Pittsburgh

Aug. 28 vs. Baltimore

Sept. 5 vs. New York

Sept. 8 at Atlanta

Sept. 14 vs. Atlanta

Sept. 20 at Miami

Sept. 25 vs. Philadelphia

Oct. 1 Wild-Card Game

Note three appearances against the first-place Braves. Consider a late-September start against Philadelphia. Then, of course, being on an extra day of rest should the wild-card game be necessary.

“You know Max,” Martinez said. “He wants to pitch today. He wants to pitch tomorrow. He wants to pitch Friday, Saturday, Sunday.”

Can things go wrong between now and then? Yes. A rainout could move Scherzer around. A recurrence of the mid-back strain which put him on the 10-day injured list July 13, retroactive to July 10, could happen. But, the Nationals took the time to map this out when considering whether Scherzer will pitch Thursday opposite Colorado or Friday against the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers. 

One wrinkle in this projection: The final series of the season is at Nationals Park versus Cleveland. The Indians start play Tuesday just three games out of the division lead in the American League Central and two ahead for a wild-card spot. Which means Cleveland could be playing for everything (from the division title, to hosting the wild-card game, to just getting into the postseason) or nothing because it has clinched a spot. Scherzer would not be on schedule for that series.

More immediately, Monday’s rainout forced the Nationals to massage their rotation. Erick Fedde was moved from Monday’s start to the first game of Wednesday’s split day-night doubleheader. Anibal Sanchez will pitch Friday. Joe Ross is expected to fill the open spot Saturday. Patrick Corbin, Scherzer and Sanchez will line up to face Atlanta when it visits next week.

There was one other starting pitcher issue exposed Tuesday. Austin Voth (right biceps tendinitis) has stopped throwing. He will have an MRI this week and his future is to be determined. Not so for Scherzer. He's expected back Thursday, then Oct. 1, if necessary.

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