WASHINGTON — Denard Span was in the middle of discussing his 26-game hitting streak when cheers, claps and whoops erupted from out-of-sight sections of the Washington Nationals clubhouse.
“I think Gomez must have robbed a homer,” Span said. “OK, that’s good for us.”
That would be Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez, who kept Jay Bruce’s drive in the park in the ninth inning of a tied game against the Cincinnati Reds. The Brewers went on win, a result that combined with the Nationals’ 11-2 rout of the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday to trim Washington’s deficit to 4½ games for the NL’s second wild-card berth.
Jordan Zimmerman (18-8) scattered two runs and seven hits in seven innings for his NL-best 18th win, and Wilson Ramos had four hits and five RBIs on the day he became the 2013 version of the iron man catcher. The Nationals have won eight of nine and 25 of 35.
“I’d trade all those wins,” Zimmermann said, “for a shot in the playoffs.”
Put Ramos near the top of the list of reasons for the Nationals’ late surge. He started his 23rd consecutive game, passing St. Louis’ Yadier Molina for most starts in a row behind the plate in the majors this year. He tied career highs for hits and RBIs, and he has 49 RBIs in 54 games since coming off the disabled list.
“He’s been hitting the heck out of the ball, catching good, throwing people out. He’s hard to take out of the lineup,” Johnson said. “We’ve missed him for two years, so we’re going to ride him.”
Ramos tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last year and was hindered this season by a bothersome right hamstring. He’s been close to being tagged with an injury-prone label, so his recent streak has answered at least a few of the questions about his durability.
“That was very important for me,” said Ramos, who has 14 homers and 50 RBIs in only 67 games. “That’s a good test for my knee, for myself, to show everybody that I can play every day.”
The Nationals’ other noteworthy games-in-a-row watch continued when Span singled up the middle in the third, putting him one shy of Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer for longest hitting streak in the majors this season.
Washington took the lead for good with three runs in the fourth off Tyler Cloyd (2-5), starting with back-to-back doubles by Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond. Harper added his third outfield assist in the three-game series when he caught Darin Ruf trying to stretch a single off the left-field wall into a double in the sixth.
Washington added five runs in the seventh off Joe Savery and Mauricio Robles.
The Nationals’ recent run has come in a soft part of the schedule. Next comes at three-game series against the Atlanta Braves, who have a chance to clinch the NL East at Washington’s ballpark.
“We don’t want that,” Johnson said.
The Nationals are 4-12 against the Braves this season.
“We need to at least send a message these next three days that we’re better than them,” the manager said.
The Nationals’ long day came at the expense of Cloyd, who allowed five runs and 10 hits.
“He has to be real good with his command, and it seemed like today as the game got into the fourth it looked like balls started to be elevated a little bit and caught a lot of the plate,” Philadelphia manager Ryne Sandberg said. “And against that lineup, and the way they’re swinging the bat, it’s a tough combination.”
NOTES: Every player in the Nationals’ starting lineup had at least one hit. … Washington went 9 for 13 with runners in scoring position; the Nationals began the day with a .239 RISP average, 25th in the major leaguers. … Phillies LF Domonic Brown, returning from a right Achilles tendon injury, doubled and scored in the second inning in his first start since Aug. 30. He came off the bench Friday and Saturday. … The Nationals’ 18 hits tied their season high. … The Phillies have not won a series on the road since the All-Star break. … A pigeon wandered near the pitcher’s mound, shortstop and second base for several innings. During warmups at the start of the eighth, the bird had a staredown with first base umpire Jim Wolf on the edge of the outfield grass. The crowd cheered whenever the pigeon attempted to fly, but the bird appeared to be injured and couldn’t stay airborne for more than a few yards. “You could walk right up to him, and he wouldn’t budge,” Nationals 2B Steve Lombardozzi said.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)