The weather has been remarkably cool and crisp for late July, as if a hand reached out and parted the humid air to allow fans a better ending to the last homestand of July. On Sunday, before the team went to Detroit, there were little kids running the bases. Surprisingly, there were Nationals running them as well, and with almost as much joy and abandon.
It was a perfect day in D.C., almost too perfect, like one of those television shows that paints a Washington political scene so much more appealing than the real one.
Matt Garza went to Texas. Old friend Alfonso Soriano went back to New York, but it was not trade winds that were blowing in D.C. Watching Taylor Jordan's slider drop off the table, it was apparent that much of what Washington needs can be found close to home. There is no Jake Peavy needed when clutch performances like that by Ross Ohlendorf can be found in the bullpen.
Maybe even the slugger that Washington needs so badly made an appearance over the weekend. Could it be Denard Span or Wilson Ramos? Ramos is more likely to fit the role. Twice Sunday, he returned to the dugout, a smile on his face as he planted both fists on top of his head like a bull. His one-out single in the bottom of the second inning started the scoring. Ramos showed the way early, and then in the third inning he did it again, this time more emphatically with a grand slam home run.
Ramos is hitting a cool .322 for the month of July - so far - and had four home runs and 17 RBI. It is probably just a good month for a good player, but he has shown the potential before and is only 25.
Four of the six runs on the board at the end of the third inning belonged to Ramos. It looked for a few innings like a one-man show. At 6 feet and 220 lbs., he is a bull of a man, kind of like the statue in front of one of the stock market trading firms. And yet there is no bull about him. His command of English does not allow that kind of elaboration. It is all there in short, accurate statements. His is a remarkable example we could all follow happily.
So, here is the short and accurate analysis of the season. The Nationals need to win 40 of their remaining 56 games to finish with 92 wins. It is possible for them to do so. Last season, they finished the last two months of the season by winning 37 of 60 games. A slightly better pace will work once again to put them into position for a playoff spot.
Slightly better could mean the extra punch the Nationals will have in the last two months from Ramos' big bat. Most important could be the advent of timely hitting as provided by Ramos on Sunday. That is what will do the trick.
Timely hitting and the kind of pitching displayed after Friday afternoon will help the Nationals force their way into the playoff picture for 2013. And that is the short analysis - no bull.
Ted Leavengood is author of "Clark Griffith, The Old Fox of Washington Baseball," released in June 2011. He serves as managing editor of the popular Seamheads.com national baseball blog and co-hosts with Chip Greene the "Outta the Parkway" Internet radio show. His work appears here as part of MASNsports.com's effort to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of the Internet. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.