Ramos shows 'confidence' with game-winning HR

Ramos shows 'confidence' with game-winning HR

WASHINGTON -- When Wilson Ramos connected on a Madison Bumgarner slider in the seventh inning of Sunday's game, no one thought the ball was gone.

Not Ben Revere, who figured the fly to right-center was a popup. Not Dusty Baker, who found himself watching it soar toward the wall and praying it would keep going. And not Ramos, who dropped his head as he left the batter's box, apparently in frustration.

But the ball carried over the fence and into the first row of the stands, putting the Nationals ahead in a 1-0 victory over the Giants.

"I didn't think the ball was going to carry that much, because I didn't hit it -- I connected well, but I didn't think the ball was going to go," Ramos said. "But thank God the ball went out and we were able to take the lead."

The home run was maybe the biggest moment in a breakout season for the veteran catcher. Ramos played in his first All-Star Game in July and currently has career highs in batting average (.338), on-base percentage (.387), slugging (.556), home runs (18) and runs scored (52).

Baker said he thinks Ramos is benefiting from high confidence levels as his big year rolls on, and the catcher said he agrees with the skipper's assessment.

"I have a lot of confidence at the moment, and I feel very comfortable at home swinging at pitches in the zone," Ramos said. "And I feel very comfortable with confidence, and I think everything is going well because of that."

Ramos, who had Lasik eye surgery in the offseason, said he's found success by laying off pitches out of the zone, and the stats back that up. According to Fangraphs, Ramos had swung at only 29 percent of pitches out of the strike zone entering Sunday, the lowest rate of his career. Meanwhile, he's making contact with 88.7 percent of pitches in the zone that he swings at, a career high.

The home run Sunday came on a Bumgarner offering that looked to nick the outside corner, around Ramos' thighs. The righty took the pitch the other way to right field to give the Nationals the edge.

Afterward, Baker applauded Ramos for maintaining the mindset of a "hitter, not a slugger," even while possessing the ability to knock balls out of the park.

"He can reach the fences at any part of the ballpark, but he remains within himself and not trying to hit home runs all the time," Baker said. "He is a hitter first, which is evident by his .330-plus batting average, with power. This is how you like guys to think: Hitting first, then power."

On Sunday, that approach earned Ramos a home run off a top pitcher and the Nationals a series-deciding win. The ball may not have looked like a home run off the bat, but it counted as one all the same.

Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.