Wilson Ramos relaxed in the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse Sunday morning, leaning back in the chair in front of his locker. In a few hours, he’d start his 23rd consecutive game behind the plate — setting a season-high mark for catchers in all of the major leagues.
The streak is important to him, after missing almost all of the 2012 season with a knee injury and 58 of the Nationals’ first 84 games this season with a hamstring injury, and he knew Yadier Molina’s 22 straight games was the mark to beat. And since it began, Ramos hit six home runs and driven in 19 runs.
“Arepas,” Ramos said with a smile, describing the stuffed corn cakes popular in Venezuela. “Everyday.”
Whatever is fueling him, Ramos’ streak may not last much longer than 23 games, however.
“I am excited, because after today, I may rest,” Ramos said. “I need it.”
But Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson may have other plans, as the teams playoff hopes continue to be slim, but existant. They’ll open Sunday 5.5 games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the wild card race.
Ramos has started every game since the team traded Kurt Suzuki to the A’s on Aug. 22 and while he’s been enthusiastic about wanting the playing time, the Nationals’ coaching staff has been trying to get Johnson to give him a day.
“It’s a lot,” said bench coach Randy Knorr, a former major league catcher who understands just how much the job takes its toll. “It’s really a lot. Especially the day games after night games.”
Knorr understands why the streak is important to Ramos, though it hasn’t stopped him from trying to convince Johnson to ease up — if only for the sake of Ramos’ twice-injured hamstring.
“I’ve been trying to find a day, but I think him wanting to play has a lot to do with him missing so many games (the past two seasons),” Knorr said. “I’m proud of him. But I worry about the hamstring.”
Ramos has been helped by the two off-days that have come during this stretch, but those are likely counteracted by the fact that Sunday will be the fourth day-game-after-a-night-game that he’s encountered over that span.
The Nationals coaches give Ramos a pass when it comes to sprinting down the first base line on ground balls, though they’d chastise other players. Both times Ramos strained his hamstring this season he was trying to beat out a ground ball, so they’ve told him to run as hard as he feels comfortable, preferring to sacrifice the out to keep him healthy.
Chances are the streak comes to an end soon — with Jhonatan Solano and Sandy Leon available to start in his place — so that Ramos can get at least a brief breather. But perhaps it won’t be Monday.
“No,” Knorr said. “He’s going.”
Here are the full lineups for the Nationals’ series finale with the Phillies:
Denard Span CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Jayson Werth RF
Bryce Harper LF
Ian Desmond SS
Adam LaRoche 1B
Wilson Ramos C
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Jordan Zimmermann P
Roger Bernadina CF
Jimmy Rollins SS
Chase Utley 2B
Domonic Brown LF
Darin Ruf RF
Cody Asche 3B
Kevin Frandsen 1B
Erik Kratz C
Tyler Cloyd P