WASHINGTON -- On Sunday, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was hitting sixth against a right-handed pitcher for the second day in a row. Harper agreed with manager Matt Williams' decision to drop him from second in the order to sixth.
The reason for the change is that Harper went 4-for-18 (.222) in five games since being activated from the disabled list on Monday. Harper missed two months of action because of torn ligaments in his left thumb, and it didn't help that he didn't face any left-handers or see many breaking balls while he was on his rehab assignment. Harper didn't see lefties until he returned to the big leagues.
"I think it's going to take a little time to get back into it. I'm trying to have good at-bats and not chase bad pitches," Harper said. "I'm trying to get in a groove again and trying to get going. With two months off, it's kind of tough trying to get back and do things."
In the sixth inning against the Cubs on Saturday, Harper showed sign of maybe getting out of his slump when he singled to left field.
"When I hit the ball the opposite side, that's huge," Harper said. "I can hit the ball to left pretty well and feel good about it. That's a good sign. We won the ballgame yesterday and that's the biggest thing. That's all I ever care about. I know my swing is going to come. It will get there. If we win a ballgame, it will be a lot easier to get going."
Ramos credits pitchers for his numbers behind plate
WASHINGTON -- Entering Sunday's action against the Cubs, Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos had thrown out 53 percent of would-be basestealers this season. Last year, Ramos threw out 29 percent. What's the reason for the improvement? According to Ramos, it helps that the Nationals' pitchers are quicker to the plate and holding runners a lot better.
"I'm not trying anything. I try to be quick behind the plate, just put the ball in the air and see what happens. That's what I like to do," Ramos said. "The pitchers help us a lot. That's good."
Ramos' bat is also coming around. Since coming off the disabled list on June 26, Ramos was 9-for-26 (.346) in seven games. When he is at the plate, Ramos likes to hit the ball up the middle or go to right field.
"Most of the time, I like to stay to the middle," Ramos said. "Most of the time, the ball goes to right field. I love to go the other way. That's the way I love to hit. I don't like to pull the ball too much."
In Saturday's game against the Cubs, Ramos went 2-for-5 with an RBI. In the third inning, he drove a ball that hit the right-field wall for a single, which scored Ian Desmond. Ramos admitted he thought the ball was gone for a home run, so he stood at home plate and wasn't able to reach second base.
But Ramos learned his lesson, and in the seventh inning he legged out a double, which gave every indication that his right hamstring is fine.
"The leg is going [well]," Ramos said. "Running is getting better. I'm working every day. I feel more strong right now. That's what I want. I go out there and play smart."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.