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With health comes power

Jul 10, 2014, 12:10 AM EDT

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BALTIMORE — The Nationals waited three months to get their entire lineup healthy and together for the first time all season. Then they continued to wait for that healthy lineup to start putting more baseballs into the bleachers.

Wednesday night, the Nats got their first glimpse at what exactly this team is capable of doing when it not only hits, but hits for power. Behind three towering home runs from Wilson Ramos, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth, they blasted the Orioles 6-2 and looked ahead to another 2 1/2 months of increased power numbers from this potent group.

“There’s definitely a lot of power in the lineup,” Werth said. “You can’t figure them things out sometimes. We’ll see as we go. But we’ve got a lot of sock in the lineup, up and down. When you’ve got Wilson Ramos hitting eighth, that’s pretty good.”

The Nationals entered play Wednesday tied for 20th in the majors with 74 home runs in 88 games. Nobody on the roster was on pace to crack the 30-homer barrier for the season. Only Desmond was on pace to finish with more than 25.

There is, however, immense power potential from just about everyone in the lineup aside from leadoff man Denard Span, whose 28 doubles are more than satisfactory production out of that spot. The sense within the clubhouse is that home-run production will only increase over the season’s second half as previously injured regulars like Ramos, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper regain strength.

“Yeah, sure,” manager Matt Williams said. “Look at our guys. Zim is coming off a thumb [injury]. It’s strength. Harp: Certainly strength. Wilson, it’s strength. The more you play, the more that strength comes back. That’s what we’re seeing.”

Ramos certainly showed his immense power potential on Wednesday, launching a 1-2 pitch from Orioles right-hander Bud Norris well beyond the left-field wall at Camden Yards for only his third homer in 129 at-bats. Quietly, the catcher has put together a 12-game hitting streak, raising his batting average to .295.

And though he insists he’s not trying to hit the ball out of the park, he feels like he will start doing that more now that his broken hand is feeling strong again.

“I feel I’m swinging better right now,” he said. “I’m not looking for a homer any time. I’m just trying to put the ball in play, put a good swing on the ball, make good contact. That’s what I like to do. … I never look for a homer. Every time I look for a homer, I’m 100 percent sure I hit a groundball to the shortstop.”

Werth, too, is starting to hit the ball with more authority after a slump that lasted several weeks. Over his last seven games, he’s now hitting .440 (11-for-25) with three homers, six doubles and 11 RBI.

“It’s a matter of getting the ball in the air,” said first baseman Adam LaRoche, who missed a grand slam Wednesday night by about five feet. “We’ve been killing some balls and hitting line drives. Miss those by a half-inch, and they turn into home runs.”

Williams cautions against his team counting on home runs too much, insisting his players need to be good situational hitters as well.

“You can’t live by them, certainly,” the manager said. “You have to manufacture sometimes. To get those homers with guys on base is especially important, because those are crooked numbers. … It’s important for us to get guys on base and give ourselves opportunities.”

That said, there’s every reason to believe the home run can become a bigger part of the Nationals’ offensive attack over the rest of the summer. Combine a healthy lineup with warm, muggy air, and the end result could be a surge of souvenirs for fans in the bleachers.

“If you see the lineup, everybody can hit a homer on this ballclub,” Ramos said. “I like what I see right now in my team. Everybody ‘s healthy. That’s what we want. If we stay like that, I’m 100 percent sure something good is coming.”

  1. David Proctor - Jul 10, 2014 at 12:15 AM

    10 ‏@SimplyAJ10 2m
    You have an absolute gun from SS @IanDesmond20 makes u feel like u aren’t even running hard cause u throw ppl out by so damn much.

  2. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 10, 2014 at 12:31 AM

    “The Nationals waited three months to get their entire lineup healthy and together for the first time all season.”

    Mark, I think I will agree with you when Bryce Harper gets hot.

    • David Proctor - Jul 10, 2014 at 12:56 AM

      Mark’s key stat in the last post was that we’re 6-2 since Harper’s return. We’ve gotten virtually nothing out of him, but his presence changes the entire complexion of the lineup. It forces managers to play matchups that maybe they otherwise wouldn’t have to. He’s been intentionally walked twice, despite being the last guy on the team I’d want to see up in a clutch situation.

      None of that is to say you’re wrong, you’re absolutely right that our lineup isn’t complete until Harper gets hot. Just pointing out he’s still impacting the game.

      Win tomorrow, take 2/3 from the Philthies and go into the break 11 games over .500.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 10, 2014 at 7:45 AM

        David, I agree as I’ve made that same argument before as an intangible. He’s had to be intentionally walked and pitched around. He’s close but until he’s hitting he’s the last of the starting 8 to really be the impact we know he can be.

  3. Joe Seamhead - Jul 10, 2014 at 12:51 AM

    This team is good, real good, and they can hang tough when they lose any one guy except one: Wilson Ramos. This team has much more swagger when they have a healthy Buffalo.

    • veejh - Jul 10, 2014 at 12:57 AM

      Was just going to post about Ramos. If Ramos can say healthy and bat for an extended period, watch out. The upside of this team is ridiculous. If they can collectively put it together it could become a beautiful thing.

      • scmargenau - Jul 10, 2014 at 8:16 AM

        Yea, I like that MW told him not to run as hard. Every time he goes for two, I hold my breath…

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 10, 2014 at 7:50 AM

      I say 2: Ramos and Desmond

      If Lobaton was a good backup then we would feel better but I can’t imagine what would happen if Espi had to fill in for Desmond at SS.

  4. Faraz Shaikh - Jul 10, 2014 at 4:11 AM

    With great power comes great responsibility. :P

    Responsibility to win matches. Go Nats!!!!

  5. Candide - Jul 10, 2014 at 7:26 AM

    MW to the contrary, Harper’s problem isn’t strength. He’s striking out at a rate that would make Espinosa proud.

    • rayvil01 - Jul 10, 2014 at 7:35 AM

      He will be fine. He’s being carried. Later he will do the carrying.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 10, 2014 at 7:53 AM

        I agree Ray. Wait for Bryce to get “en fuego”.

      • Theophilus T.S. - Jul 10, 2014 at 7:55 AM

        Harper’s ABs last night were pathetic. WaPo article pointed out that, in additional to greater vulnerability to FBs, the average length of his batted balls is down something like 30 feet from last year. As vividly illustrated last night. Right now teams would be justified in defending him like Willie Taveras. The added piece of tape on the bat — and I admit I didn’t notice whether he was using it last night — implies that the thumb is not reacting well to day-to-day use and is bothering him more than it did when he first returned (not to mention the rehab tour). I think we have to confess the possibility that the problem is more than just “gaining strength.” We were forewarned about Ramos’s power drop off. I accept last night as a sign he is coming around. Zimmerman is at least hitting doubles but I don’t see much sign of gap power. He’s much better off than Harper.

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 10, 2014 at 9:16 AM

      Yes, tho there’s probably a relationship bwn the two as he changes his swing/mechanics to try to make up for the lost power. Which is also a Danny E. sort of problem.

  6. Another_Sam - Jul 10, 2014 at 8:00 AM

    Lineup redux: IMHO the lineup was the correct one, and no surprise. I’m referring to the DH.

  7. natsguy - Jul 10, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    If you need a laugh, Peric just picked his AAAA player of the year, Emmanuel Burriss. He will now join the 4A player Hall of Fame (shame?) along with Seth Bynum, Matt Antonelli, Jorge Padilla, and JD Martin.

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 10, 2014 at 8:37 AM

      Ouch. Talk about a kiss of death….

      • Doc - Jul 10, 2014 at 10:24 AM

        Correctomundo, HH & natsguy.

        It takes one to know one, and Peric is a AAAA poster!!! LOL

  8. Hiram Hover - Jul 10, 2014 at 8:29 AM

    Love to see the HRs. Let’s be sure to acknowledge the unsung hero of that power display:

    Orioles Park at Camden Yards, one of the HR friendliest parks in MLB.

    • knoxvillenat - Jul 10, 2014 at 8:42 AM

      I agree 100%. Watching the game last night when Machado hit his HR my first thought was that Fister jammed him and it was a routine fly ball. Next thing I know the ball is going out of the park and I’m thinking Camden Yards is much like Citizens Band Box in Philly where routine fly balls become home runs. On the other hand there was nothing cheap about any of the Nats homers.

  9. tcostant - Jul 10, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    Well said by Boswell in yesterday’s paper. The most telling thing he said was how homers turn into doubles and doubles turn into out. It worth a read for everyone.

  10. tcostant - Jul 10, 2014 at 8:48 AM

    Did everyone see this:

    http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/baseball-officials-will-decide-division-of-MASN-tv-fees-between-baltimore-orioles-and-washington-nationals-041812

    I think this is the same group that said to see the network and was ignored. I like our chances…

  11. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 10, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    I wonder if Ramos will play… I cant remember when he hit the HR vs when he took the ball off the collar bone… I know he stayed in but I hope he is okay…

    Fister truly was something yesterday. Clearly struggled and was still able to psyche out that potent line up…

    • rayvil01 - Jul 10, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      Gister’s struggles were related to that ump’s narrow strike zone. ..which magically expanded later.

      Span ab in the 7th was amazing. 4 balls on top of each other on pitch track: 2-2 count.

      • rayvil01 - Jul 10, 2014 at 9:07 AM

        Fister’s

        aaasrgh. Phone keyboard strikes again.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 10, 2014 at 9:54 AM

        Awful job by the ump. Instead of K’ing Cruz in the 1st it cost Fister 11 more high stress pitches and 1 earned run and tainted his K/BB ratio.

        The Whoriole fans were complaining about the K zone but there’s no proof as you will see that it cost their starter 1 pitch and in fact he got a net 2 gift strikes and not 1 missed strike.

        Blue missed 4 strikes for Fister but gave him 2 balls called as strikes for a -2 but it was the critical Cruz Strike 3 that was so crucial.

        I just ask for consistency.

        Here’s Bud Norris chart. He got a +2 and had no strikes called as balls. What are the Os fans complaining about?

    • DaveB - Jul 10, 2014 at 11:51 AM

      Ramos’ HR was before the collar bone hit. He seemed to be swinging OK after it, but obviously MW is looking for opportunities to rest him (although Ramos did make a pointed comment in the post-game interview with Kolko about how playing every day is helping him get his power back).

  12. micksback1 - Jul 10, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    had a blast last night at Camden. sat down right field line on 1st base side, so could not see pitches to left handed batters. I could see how great Rendon’s arm is, what a player!!! Machado has a beast arm too.

    could not see if Bryce swings were missing by a lot or not. man was I taking some ribbing about harper from O’s fans, kinda hard to defend him right now, although at the games end, i turned to my nemesis and smile and yelled “Scoreboard baby”

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 10, 2014 at 9:58 AM

      Harper just missed 2 pitches but to me that isn’t timing it’s putting barrel on ball. This should’ve been the matchup that Bryce needed in a rusty pitcher coming off the DL.

      I also think Rendon got some extra adrenaline from Machado. How’s about Adam Jones giving props to Desi on the Tweeter.

      • micksback1 - Jul 10, 2014 at 1:47 PM

        oh yes. Desi is one strong dude! I know he K’s a lot, but, i bet he could blast a ball over 500 feet one day

  13. natsbro - Jul 10, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    Nats lineup so far this month:

    Denard Span .286/.355/.393 3 Doubles, 6 Runs, 1 Stolen Base

    Anthony Rendon .310/.355/.621 1 Home Run, 6 Doubles, 6 RBI

    Jayson Werth .440/.533/1.040 3 Home Runs, 6 Doubles, 11 RBI, 8 Runs !!! Wow..video game stats

    Adam LaRoche .120/.179/.120 3 RBI, 1 Run

    Ryan Zimmerman .360/.433/.480 3 Doubles, 5 RBI, 2 Runs

    Bryce Harper .120/.214/.160 1 Double, 1 Run, 11 Strikeouts

    Ian Desmond .296/.321/.519 2 Home Runs, 5 RBI, 3 Runs

    Wilson Ramos .391/.417/.565 1 Home Run, 1 Double, 3 RBI, 2 Runs

    As a Team .270/.332/.447 7 Home Runs, 21 Doubles, 34 RBI, 36 Runs, 3 Stolen Bases

    Werth, Zim and Ramos are smoking hot right now…Rendon, Desi and Span aren’t doing too shabby either.

    LaRoche has been struggling, perhaps he’ll get to rest tonight.

    May the offense continue to shine…

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jul 10, 2014 at 10:06 AM

      “Anthony Rendon .310/.355/.621 1 Home Run, 6 Doubles, 6 RBI

      Ian Desmond .296/.321/.519 2 Home Runs, 5 RBI, 3 Runs”

      not too shabby? that’s almost OPS of 1.000 and .850

      • natsbro - Jul 10, 2014 at 10:11 AM

        It’s a shame that Anthony Rendon won’t be an all star. I think part of the problem is not a lot of people get to see how good his defense really is…especially the fact that he switches between 2 positions.

        And his bat speaks for itself…

  14. micksback1 - Jul 10, 2014 at 9:53 AM

    ha ha, going tonight too!!!

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 10, 2014 at 10:04 AM

      I couldn’t believe how many of the Stars & Stripes jerseys I saw last night. If you were looking for Red, lots of Nats fans wearing blue, grey, white, and red. I would say somewhere between 15 to 20% of the crowd were Nats fans.

  15. natsbro - Jul 10, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    Is it bad that when the Braves lose I enjoy going on their forums and reading the doomsday comments? haha

    • rayvil01 - Jul 10, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      I read them on occasion. Difference is that they want to fire everyone in sight. LOD has had more practice. =)

      • natsbro - Jul 10, 2014 at 10:28 AM

        Haha although I think there may be a case to firing Freddi Gonz…has made some very questionable decisions as a manager thus far. Not that he has much to work with offensively..

  16. Section 222 - Jul 10, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    Kudos to mick and swm for making the trip to OPACY. Well done.

    • micksback1 - Jul 10, 2014 at 1:45 PM

      Thank you Sec 22 and Ghost, wish the Nats and myself luck tonight as I will be heading back out to the Yards again!

Archives

FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 96 66 --
ATLANTA 79 83 17.0
NEW YORK 79 83 17.0
MIAMI 77 85 19.0
PHILADELPHIA 73 89 23.0

NL POSTSEASON SCHEDULE

NL WILD CARD GAME
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)

NLDS
FRI: Game 1, Pirates at Nats, 12:07 p.m.,
OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
MON: Game 3, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (MLBN)
TUE: Game 4, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (FS1)*
OCT. 9: Game 5, PIT/SF at Nats, TBA (FS1)*
*if necessary

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
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