ATLANTA — Along with this team surge, the Mets have found the starting catcher they envisioned when the season began.
Wilson Ramos had been reduced to a job share of sorts with Tomas Nido heading into the All-Star break, but since then has gradually reclaimed playing time to the point a clear line resurfaced: Ramos is the starter and Nido the backup.
“Ramos has a huge impact on our offense and it’s undoubtedly so that he’s been catching great games since the All-Star break,” manager Mickey Callaway said Tuesday before the Mets opened a three-game series against the Braves at SunTrust Park.
“He’s making a lot of adjustments, he’s stealing a lot of strikes, even balls down in the zone. I think we’re at the point where Nido is going to spell him to keep him healthy and we are really going to rely on Ramos to do the bulk of the catching.”
Ramos entered play 14-for-35 (.400) in August with three homers and 13 RBIs. His penchant for delivering hits in the late innings has contributed to Mets victories in recent weeks. Notably he was part of a ninth-inning rally Friday that helped them overtake the Nationals. And on the Mets’ previous road trip he had a six-RBI game against the Pirates in which he delivered four hits with runners in scoring position.
Slowly, the shackles have been removed behind the plate. In late June that meant getting opportunities to catch for Jacob deGrom. Last Saturday, Ramos was behind the plate for a Noah Syndergaard start after seven straight with Nido for the right-hander. The Mets pitching staff began play with a 2.93 ERA since the All-Star break — the second-lowest number in the major leagues and a big reason the team had won 15-of-17 games.
“I have thrown the ball really well to him, that has been going on for quite a while now,” deGrom said. “There’s a little learning curve. This is the first year of him catching us, kind of knowing our game plan and me and him have been on the same page since I have been throwing to him and just talking to him more, him going over the hitters a little more and I think him getting more comfortable with what our stuff does as well.”
Ramos received a two-year contract worth $20 million last offseason, largely because of his bat. But unless he started meshing with the team’s best pitchers, that bat wasn’t going to get into the Mets lineup nearly enough.
Ramos may have stolen six strikes for deGrom and the Mets bullpen in Sunday’s game, according to Callaway. And Callaway said there was a recent game in which Ramos may have stolen as many as 10 strikes.
“I thought he did a great job [with Syndergaard], he’s done a great job with our pen and no matter who has been out there lately he has been catching great games,” Callaway said.
For deGrom, repetition has been the key with Ramos.
“You are not used to what exactly our stuff does at first and the more you see it the more used to it you get and the more you see us pitch, the more you know how we want to get people out,” deGrom said.