When Wilson Ramos strode to the plate with two on and two outs in the bottom of the sixth with the score tied 5-5, Nationals manager Davey Johnson turned to his bench coach, Randy Knorr.
"He's had a good day," Johnson told Knorr. "He might as well just hit one out here."
Ask, and you shall receive.
In his first game off the disabled list after missing 44 games with a strained left hamstring, Ramos crushed a three-run, go-ahead homer off Brewers righty Brandon Kintzler, a long shot over the visitors' bullpen in left that gave the Nationals an 8-5 lead. Ramos ended up 3-for-4 with five RBIs and the Nats went on to win by the same 8-5 score, moving back above .500 on the season at 43-42.
"I'm happy for this day, for me, for my family, for my team," Ramos said. "They were waiting for me, for my return. I'm happy, happy for this day. Hopefully I will help the team to win a lot of games."
After he rounded the bases and got high fives and smacks on the back from his teammates, Ramos heard the crowd at Nats Park roaring, wanting a curtain call. He obliged.
"That was an exciting moment," Ramos said. "I saw a couple of my teammates doing that. They were waiting for me. It feels great."
Ramos had gone 0-for-13 on a rehab assignment prior to coming off the DL today, including 0-for-10 in his three games at high Single-A Potomac, numbers that led to another joke from Johnson, who was in a pretty good mood during both pre- and postgame press conferences today.
"That pitching must've been awful tough down at Potomac," Johnson quipped. "No. I know how it is. Those kids down there (in the minors) are hyped up. They've got a big leaguer they're throwing up and in, down and away and he's just trying to get some timing. The only thing I was concerned about was how he felt coming out of the games, and was the leg all right."
The Nats led 5-2 going to the seventh, but Drew Storen served up two homers in the top half of the inning, including a game-tying two-run bomb to left off the bat of Carlos Gomez. That shot ensured that for the second straight start, Taylor Jordan wouldn't get credited with a win despite pitching pretty well.
"It's a shame we didn't hold onto that win for the kid," Johnson said. "He pitched a good ballgame. Have all the confidence in Storen and Storen's trying to trick people instead of just making his pitches. Maybe that'll be a good learning game."
Storen had lowered his ERA to 3.82 after a scoreless outing on Monday, but it now stands at 5.40 after two straight poor showings. Storen has now allowed seven runs in his last two innings of work, this after he had gone through a five-week stretch where he seemed nearly unhittable.
"By and large, he was just keeping his two-seamer down and locating that," Johnson said of what he saw from Storen during his hot stretch. "Occasionally, he'd throw a get-me-over curveball to a left-hander to get ahead, but by and large it was his fastball. Up until that point, he had a tendency to try and overpower and trick people. And he doesn't have to trick people with that stuff. But like I say, hopefully he'll learn. Because he shook off a bunch of times today to get to the hanging changeup and the hanging breaking ball."
Jordan went 5 2/3 innings in his second big league start, allowing just two runs on six hits. His fastball command was a little better than it was in his debut, and the rookie showed off some nice off-speed pitches, as well. His ERA is a tidy 2.70 after his first two starts.
"I thought he was very similar (to his last time out)," Johnson said. "His changeup, he threw a better changeup today. He also threw some good sliders. But he, by and large, kept his sinker down, and that was good. One of the rules you can count on, especially with a young pitcher, they pitch a good ballgame past the fifth or sixth, I'm not gonna let them lose the ballgame. So that's why even though, after the base hit (in the sixth) and we got the guy at first, that was it for me."
Johnson said before the game that he decided to flip Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth in the lineup just because he felt the need to do something.
"Yeah, that came out all right," Johnson said with a big smile. "Once in a while, I have a great idea. They both had great ballgames."
Desmond and Werth combined to go 6-for-7 with two walks, four runs scored, an RBI and three stolen bases.
"This is basically the first time in a long time, early April, that we had our whole lineup in there," Johnson said. "But I like the lineup. But it's all about each individual having quality at-bats. And we got a couple guys still that aren't doing the things they're capable of doing. Two or three guys that I know will do it, and usually a couple months into the season, everybody's usually doing their thing. But we've had spells where everybody goes bad.
"But more and more, the guys are expressing their talent. And that's what's important to going on a run."