7/20/2014 6:17 P.M. ET
Ramos enjoying success at the bottom of the order
By Daniel Popper / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper returned to the Nationals' lineup on June 30 after missing two months because of a torn left thumb ligament. As a result, Wilson Ramos -- Washington's Opening-Day cleanup hitter -- has been forced to move down in the order.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound catcher has batted in the eighth spot for 11 of the 12 games he's started since Harper rejoined the team. Ramos hit seventh against the Phillies on July 11, but that was only because Danny Espinosa started in place of Ian Desmond at shortstop to give Desmond a day off.
The demotion hasn't hindered Ramos' production, though. In fact, the right-handed slugger has been on a tear since Harper's return, batting .340 (16-47) over the 12 games with seven RBIs and a home run entering Sunday. His season average has soared from .274 to .295. And he extended the recent hot streak with a 3-for-4, three-RBI performance in an 8-3 win over the Brewers on Saturday.
"Every time I go up there, I'm just looking for one pitch," Ramos said. "Make a good swing and try to put the ball in play and see what happens. That's what I like to do. I don't care if I'm hitting fourth, fifth, sixth. I just go out there and try to do my job. So if I've got runners on base, try to bring those runners in."
Gio records 1,000th career strikeout
WASHINGTON -- Gio Gonzlaez entered his start in Sunday's 5-4 win against the Brewers with 995 career strikeouts - 511 as an Athletic and 484 as a National.
It only took him 2 1/3 innings to reach the 1,000-strikeout milestone.
Gonzalez fanned Milwaukee second baseman Rickie Weeks for the second time in the contest in the top of the third inning to cement the achievement.
"You enjoy the moment," Gonzalez said. "When the players acknowledge it and the fans were acknowledging it, it's a pretty special moment in your career."
Gonzalez struck out the side in the second inning, but not without some adversity. A walk, a single, and an error from Ryan Zimmerman loaded the bases with one out. Gonzalez responded with back-to-back strikeouts, though, the latter of which came on a 3-2 changeup to Carlos Gomez.
After striking out Weeks to lead off the third, Gonzalez surrendered back-to-back walks before a groundout from Jonathan Lucroy and a single from Khris Davis brought both runners home.
The left-hander got out of the inning with a Mark Reynolds pop up, but only made it through two batters in the fourth inning before manager Matt Williams pulled him in favor of Craig Stammen.
"It's a bittersweet moment," Gonzalez said of his 1,000th strikeout. "It's a great accomplishment in my career and I feel just happy to do it here with the Nats. But at the same time, just a better outcome would have been nice."
Blevins continues to struggle against righties
WASHINGTON -- Jerry Blevins has been dominant against left-handed hitters in 2014. However, he's fared dramatically worse against righties.
Over Blevins's 41 appearances this season, lefties are hitting a measly .117, compiling just seven total hits. On the other hand, righties are batting .338 against Blevins -- a shockingly high number that deviates from his career averages.
Blevins has been in the Majors for eight seasons. During that time, righties are hitting .250 against him while lefties have posted a .211 mark. Even more surprising, though, is that fact that Blevins fared better against righties in 2013, when righties hit .190 against him, and lefties hit .253.
"[It's] a combination of many factors," Blevins said of the discrepancy this year. "Pitch location ... situational things. Mostly, baseball. It is what it is. Make some minor adjustments and go from there."
The left-hander's struggles culminated Saturday night against the Brewers, who led off the top of the eighth inning against Blevins with three straight righties. Blevins retired Carlos Gomez to start the frame, but pinch-hitter Martin Maldonado reached on a single in the next at-bat before Ryan Braun deposited a 91-mph sinker into the left-field seats for a two-run home run.
Manager Matt Williams said Blevins must command his fastball inside to righties if he wants to improve. On Saturday night, Blevins served up an inside fastball to Braun, but the left-hander wasn't dissatisfied with his execution.
"The ball to Braun was in and off the plate," Blevins said. "He hit a good pitch."
As season continues, standings start to stand out
WASHINGTON -- All season, media and fans alike relentlessly dissect standings.
For instance, the Nationals tied the Braves for the lead in the National League East Saturday night, and legitimate excitement surrounded that development, as it should. However, it loses significance when put in context of the fact that more than 60 games still remain on the schedule.
Still, there is no question the constant fluctuation in standings is part of what makes baseball so interesting to follow. But when over the course of 162 games do players begin focusing on their position amongst division rivals, if at all?
"Usually around August," Denard Span said. "You start to kind of see who's going to be in and who's not going to be in it."
Right-hander Tanner Roark said he always keeps a watchful eye on the standings but never tries to get too caught up in them over the course of the season.
"We know [the standings] in the back of our minds," Roark said. "But we don't try to just focus on it all the time. We've got to play a game each and every day, day-in and day-out."
• Sunday was Denard Span bobblehead day at Nationals Park. The first 25,000 fans that entered from any gate received the figurine, which displayed Span extending for a fly ball near the outfield wall.