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Wilson Ramos' Torn ACL Could Be Straw That Breaks Ailing Nationals Offense

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26:  Wilson Ramos #40 of the Washington Nationals lies in pain after slipping on play at the plate in the fifth inning during a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Nationals Park on September 26, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Washington Nationals offense has taken some big hits lately. On Tuesday, the Nats might have received a knockout punch.

All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos was injured while receiving a throw at home in Monday's 14-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The diagnosis? A torn ACL, per Comcast SportsNet Nationals.

Needless to say, Ramos will miss the remainder of the regular season and any postseason games the Nationals play.

Given the battered state of their lineup, they may not play too many.

We'll talk about Washington's outlook and its other wounded warriors in a moment. First, let's recount what Ramos has done this season and just how deeply his absence will be felt.

Before he went down, the 29-year-old backstop was tearing through his contract year. He ranked second among qualified Nationals in batting average (.307) and slugging percentage (.496) and fourth in home runs (22) and RBI (80).

And while all catchers wrestle tired legs this time of year, Ramos had been on something of a hot streak, collecting 15 hits in his last 11 games.

Ramos, a pending free agent, was enjoying a career year with Washington.
Ramos, a pending free agent, was enjoying a career year with Washington.Joe Sargent/Getty Images

"There's nothing you can do about it," manager Dusty Baker said Monday, before the full severity of Ramos' injury was known, per Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post. "You got to play. You got to play and nobody feels sorry for you, so we're not going to feel sorry for ourselves."

That's the correct line to feed reporters. But no one would blame the Nationals for feeling a little sorry for themselves. Nationals SPORTalk agrees:

Nationals SPORTalk @SPORTalkNats

Wilson Ramos to miss postseason with torn ACL... #Nats #MLB https://t.co/HysjI2UHTW

Second baseman Daniel Murphy, the NL's batting-title front-runner for most of the season, is out with a glute strain and "may not be ready for the playoffs," Baker told Craig Heist of 106.7 The Fan (h/t Chris Lingebach of CBS DC).

Reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper, in the midst of a down year, is battling a jammed left thumb.

The Harper and Murphy dings were troubling and already placed Washington in a precarious position ahead of its National League Division Series showdown with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now, with Ramos a spectator, the task goes from daunting to Sisyphean.

Daniel Murphy, the Nats' best hitter for most of the season, is out with a glute injury.
Daniel Murphy, the Nats' best hitter for most of the season, is out with a glute injury.G Fiume/Getty Images

Just as the Nationals offense is crumbling like a dry autumn leaf, the Dodgers are getting healthy.

Ace Clayton Kershaw has made four starts since returning from a serious back injury and appears to be rounding into form. Trade-deadline acquisition Rich Hill has put blister issues behind him and owns a 1.53 ERA in five outings with L.A. 

Add Japanese import Kenta Maeda, and Los Angeles can throw out a top three to rival any playoff rotation in baseball.

Even at full strength, this would have been a tough slog for the Nats. With three of their top hitters either banged up or out, it could be nearly impossible.

Oh, then there's the Nationals rotation, where Stephen Strasburg and his balky right elbow still haven't thrown off a mound.

Recently, I wrote about the possibility of Max Scherzer taking the Nats on his back and carrying them to World Series glory. With Ramos gone, the weight gets considerably heavier.

Things aren't hopeless in the nation's capital. The Nationals have weapons, including speedy rookie Trea Turner (.340 average, .923 OPS and 27 stolen bases in 67 games), third baseman Anthony Rendon (18 home runs, 81 RBI) and left fielder Jayson Werth (21 home runs, 70 RBI). 

"We're not going to feel sorry for ourselves," Nats skipper Dusty Baker said after the club's raft of injuries.
"We're not going to feel sorry for ourselves," Nats skipper Dusty Baker said after the club's raft of injuries.Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

October is the time when unlikely heroes rise. Heck, maybe Jose Lobaton—who figures to take over behind the dish—will start hitting out of his mind. His .220 average doesn't suggest that's likely, but stranger things have happened.

With six games remaining, the Nats (91-65) hold a one-game lead over L.A. for home-field advantage in the NLDS. It'd be nice to hang on to that position, but right now their primary focus has to be on avoiding any more injuries. 

If that means gluing key players to the bench, so be it. Because if the Ramos blow wasn't the one that laid Washington on the canvas, the next one surely would be.

    

All statistics current as of Tuesday and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.