05/05/2013 2:15 PM ET
Harper tossed for arguing third-strike call
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper was ejected in the first inning after striking out against the Pirates in a 6-2 victory at PNC Park on Sunday afternoon.
With two outs, Harper worked the count to 2-2 against left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, who threw a curveball to Harper. It looked like Harper didn't swing at the pitch, but third-base umpire John Hirschbeck ruled that he did to end the inning. A few seconds later, Harper was ejected by Hirschbeck. Harper then slammed his bat down and left the game without further incident.
It marked Harper's second career ejection. The first one came on Aug. 29, 2012, against the Marlins after he slammed his helmet down while trying to beat out a ground ball.
Roger Bernadina replaced Harper in left field and went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
"I was going to give Harper the day off, but I didn't expect it to go that way," Washington manager Davey Johnson said.
Harper, who is nursing a sore left side, wouldn't say what happened during the incident. In fact, he said he didn't know what caused it.
"It's just something that happened. I'm glad it didn't cause the outcome of the game where we are losing. We got the 'W' today and things like that happen," Harper said.
Hirschbeck explained to MLB.com why he ejected Harper from the game.
"First of all, he put both arms up in the air. To me, I felt like that's showing me up," Hirschbeck said. "I yelled at him and warned him to stop. And then he continued and he slammed his bat down. I actually warned him again and then the next thing he slammed his helmet down, and I felt three warnings are more than enough."
Johnson said that Hirschbeck is a good umpire and made the right call when it came to Harper swinging on the third strike. But he wished that Hirschbeck had walked away from the incident.
"He is a good umpire. I like John," Johnson said. "He made the right call. What can I say? I wish he hadn't made it. I don't want to lose anybody. I definitely don't want to lose my three-hole hitter in the first inning."
Feeling good, Ramos makes back-to-back starts
PITTSBURGH -- Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos started his second straight game against the Pirates on Sunday. It marked the first time that Ramos has played consecutive games this season.
Manager Davey Johnson has been cautious with Ramos before Sunday because the backstop suffered a serious right knee injury last year and missed most of the season. He also had a left hamstring injury last month.
Ramos said he was happy to see his name in the lineup for the second consecutive day. Entering Sunday, the Nationals were 7-2 when Ramos starts. He recently went to Johnson and told him that he was ready to play in back-to-back games. For most of the season, Ramos has been splitting time with Kurt Suzuki.
"I was waiting for this moment," Ramos said. "It's a long season. I know the manager didn't want me [to play back-to-back games] because of my knee and hamstring. But they feel good right now. I went to him a couple of days ago [and told him] that I'm feeling fine. My leg feels strong. I'm ready to go, I'm ready to play in back-to-back games. I want to help the team win. That's what I want to do."
On Saturday, Ramos -- stuck in an 0-for-17 slump -- singled in the sixth inning to drive in two runs and tie the score at 4.
"When we get into a slump, hits like that make me happy," Ramos said. "You have to keep working hard, keep your head up and try to help the team."
Ramos urges Strasburg to keep his head up
PITTSBURGH -- Last Monday against the Braves, Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg pitched seven innings and allowed only two runs, but catcher WIlson Ramos noticed that Strasburg's head was often down.
Against the Pirates on Saturday, Ramos said he told Strasburg to keep his head up all the time regardless of how he was pitching. The catcher told his pitcher to just keep fighting.
"It's not good when you are behind the plate and you see your pitcher [keeping his head down]. It's not good," Ramos said. "I would like everybody to keep their head up. Let's go fight. It's a long season. We can do a lot of good things. I love this team. I know everybody here can play hard. We can do a lot of [good] things."
Strasburg pitched effectively with Ramos behind the plate on Saturday, lasting seven innings and allowing four runs on five hits in a 5-4 victory over the Pirates.
Werth aiming to play Tuesday against Tigers
PITTSBURGH -- Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth missed the three-game series against the Pirates because of a tight right hamstring, but is hoping to play against the Tigers on Tuesday.
Werth also didn't rule out being out of the lineup for the two-game series against Detroit and then return against the Cubs on Friday. He doesn't think he will be put on the disabled list.
"[Manager] Davey [Johnson] is just being cautious with the hamstring and that's fine with me," Werth said. "It's not injured. If it gets much worse, it could be a situation where I could be out for a significant amount of time. It's just tight, if we get to loosen up, it will be all right. There is no strain or significant injury in there. It just needs to loosen up. Whenever that happens, I'll be good to go."
Werth hurt the hamstring and his ankle Monday against the Braves. He played Thursday, but was taken out after the fourth inning.
• Nationals outfielder Denard Span entered the clubhouse declaring that he could play in Sunday's game against the Pirates, and manager Davey Johnson inserted Span into the leadoff spot.
Span missed Saturday's game when he injured his right ankle in the first inning Friday.
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.