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Ramos hoping to build on strong series vs. Brewers

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Ramos hoping to build on strong series vs. Brewers

The Nationals know they have a long way to go before they can climb out of their current hole in the NL East standings. That said, the feeling among players after Sunday afternoon's series-clinching win over the Milwaukee Brewers was the hope that their biggest bugaboo in recent weeks -- the struggling offense -- might finally start to to turn things around.

You can put Wilson Ramos at the top of that list. His mammoth fifth-inning home run off Matt Garza to right-center (measured at an estimated 436 feet) was just his third extra-base hit in the month of August and was his first long ball since July 21.

"It was a good day," the beaming 28-year-old catcher said at his locker after the game. "That at-bat I was looking for the fastball. He throw me the fastball on the first pitch for a ball. He throw it again, and I was waiting for it."

Ramos' struggles at the plate have gone mostly under the radar this season, particularly when compared to the attention that the likes of Ian Desmond, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth have received during their respective slumps. But unlike a good chunk of the lineup, Ramos' health hasn't been the issue all year. At 95 games played, he's on pace to play close to a full season for the first time since his breakout 2011 campaign.

In fact, Ramos was willing to show reporters just how eager he is to return to his form from four years ago. As he was talking during his postgame interview, he pulled out one of the many sheets of paper in his locker that featured pictorial differences between his 2011 batting stance and stride at the plate versus what he's doing recently. It was a lighthearted moment that drew laughter, but was an illustration of what he's trying to do to resuscitate his power numbers for the season's stretch run.

"I feel more comfortable right now," he said. "Those pictures help me to change my approach at home plate. That helped me out a little bit. Today I was swinging great at the plate, seeing the ball good and that help me to go out there and get more confident. I need to get my comfort back."

It's easy to forget now, but at one point Ramos was once projected to be one of the better power-hitting catchers in the National League. Even as recently as 2013, he slugged .470 through 78 games, which would have been good for second in the NL at the position had he played in enough games to qualify. Of course, one home run doesn't cure one's ails, but Sunday's moonshot was a reminder that he still has that kind of ability.

"That’s the kind of power he’s got," said manager Matt Williams. "If he can elevate the pitch and elevate the way he hits the ball then he can do that. Good single to right in the first at-bat and then the homer. Good swings."

Like many Nats hitters, it's probably too late for Ramos to finish the season with big-time numbers. But a solid weekend could be the launching pad for happier times during the season's most critical juncture.

"[It] feels great right now," Ramos said. "After a bad day, a good day [is] coming. So we have to enjoy every good moment."

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A quick recap of Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, including how your Nats did

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USA TODAY Sports

A quick recap of Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, including how your Nats did

Tuesday evening's All-Star game was fairly uneventful until its later innings. The American League triumphed over the National League, 8 - 6, for their sixth straight All-Star game victory.

Despite fears of potential rain and inclement weather delaying the game, there were no unexpected stops in play. 

The AL started very strong offensively, with runs from Aaron Judge and Mike Trout in the top of the second and third innings, respectively. Jean Segura's three-run homer in the top of the eighth made victory look inevitable for the AL by the fifth. 

Max Scherzer, unsurprisingly, was well received among fans at Nationals Park. The Nats starter pitched the first two innings, giving up four hits. One was Judge's second-inning homer, but Scherzer remained unfazed and lighthearted. Four strikeouts made his performance commendable.

Bryce Harper did not get on as well, striking out in both of his at-bats. After Harper's Home Run Derby win last night, there was chatter of him going for the MVP title as well. 

It didn't work out, but given Harper's consistent presence at the All-Star game, there's always another chance.

Elsewhere in the dugout for the NL, who rallied back from the three-run deficit, the kids were all right. Willson Contreras of the Cubs had a solo homer at the bottom of the third, the Rockies' Trevor Story had one in the seventh, and Christian Yelich added another in the eighth. A two-run homer by Scooter Gennett in the bottom of the ninth brought the game back to a 5-5 tie.

Jesus Aguilar struck out for the NL, and extra innings began.

In the top of the tenth, Alex Bregman and George Springer, both of the Astros, hit home runs almost immediately off of Dodgers pitcher Ross Stipling. Stop us if you've heard that one before.

With no outs, Michael Brantley took a sacrifice flyout to right field, and Jean Segura got in one more run to put the score at 8-5.

Though Joey Votto (Reds) hit one last home run in the bottom of the tenth, the NL couldn't quite make up the deficit.

After a late night, the American League will be going home happy.

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2018 MLB All-Star Game Live Blog

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USA TODAY Sports

2018 MLB All-Star Game Live Blog

This is the year's most ambitious crossover event in baseball. Dozens of MLB standouts from dozens of teams ally along either the National or American league. The two teams play against each other in a lighthearted frankensquad matchup. It's a welcome change of pace, considering how stressed we are about the Nationals' win percentage.

At the moment, we're keeping our eyes to the sky to monitor incoming rain. Aside from the threat of rain delay, we're excited to see how things unfold.

TOP 10 - Yikes, uh, so that's two solo home runs, and still no outs?

BOT 9 - A lot of people have either Bad Bunny or Post Malone as their walk up music. Also, uh, Scooter did a two-run homer, so now we're going to extra innings.

TOP 9 - Nothing is happening. Yawn.

BOT 8 - Yelich homers! We love one Brewer! It's 5-3 AL.

TOP 8 - Segura hits a three-run homer. Cruz adds it to his Instagram story. The AL is up 5-2. Yikes.

TOP 8 - Blackmon is very charming when mic'd up. He's talking about how lonely the outfield is. In other adjacent boredom news, Mike Trout follows over 145 weather related accounts on twitter. Yes, we went through his 2,400 user long following list to check.

BOT 7 - Bottoms tend to be the most exciting. Arenado knows this. So he tied it with a solo homer.

TOP 7 - Please, we are all so tired, and this pace is so slow. Votto has a nice tag, Yelich loses a ball in the lights but still makes the out. 

BOT 6 - Everybody Hates The National League. Votto, Yelich, and Blackmon all come up short.

INT 6 - Everyone on the internet and the broadcast loses their minds over Manny Machado.

TOP 6 - Nelson Cruz goes up against pitcher Jeremy Jeffress to start the inning. We take a brief pause for another selfie. Isn't it kind of a bad idea to have your phone in your pocket when you're at bat? Anyway. Bregman hits a double, but is immediately outshined as we go to Manny Machado for an interview about how it feels to wear an Orioles uniform for (maybe) the last time. Limor pinch hits for Machado, and doesn't quite get it out of the park. Oh well.

BOT 5 - Contreras gets a hit off Jose Berrios and promptly gets tagged first. Javier Baez looks amazing at the plate, but flies out. Arenado walks. Trout-man catches Molina's almost-homer. NL, do better please.

TOP 5 - Aaron Nola strikes out Brandon Crawford fairly easily and Mookie Betts not so easily. Mike Trout, who looks like he would post pictures with trout and other fish on Instagram, pops up and across the first base line. Sorry AL.

BOT 4 - Bryce Harper faces Blake Snell and strikes out for the second time tonight. Maybe he thought tonight was a Strikeout Derby?

TOP 4 - Machado pops up to the third baseman in what may be his final at-bat wearing an Orioles uniform.

TOP 4 - Matt Kemp deftly avoids tampering charges when the FOX broadcast crew asks him about his selfie with Machado.

BOT 2 - Manny begins acquainting himself with his LA teammates.

BOT 2 - Chris Sale only stuck around for one inning, apparently. It's Luis Severino time in D.C. He allows a double from Matt Kemp to start but then strikes out Bryce Harper. 

TOP 2 - Aaron Judge takes Scherzer deep. 1-0 AL. Sigh.

BOT 1 - AL Starter Chris Sale responds with a scoreless frame of his own. We're on our way to that 3-2 thriller after all!!! 

TOP 1 - Scherzer strikes out Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve before walking Mike Trout (can't blame him) and allowing a hit to J.D. Martinez. No damage done though, and it's 0-0. 

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