WSH@CIN: Ramos goes yard to pad the Nationals' lead

CINCINNATI -- Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos started his second game of the season on Saturday afternoon against the Reds at Great American Ball Park.

Under normal circumstances, it wouldn't be a big deal. It was for Ramos, though, because Cincinnati is where he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last May 12 against the Reds, while going after a wild pitch from right-hander Jordan Zimmermann.

As he was going for the ball, Ramos' knee buckled and caused him to miss the rest of the season.

"It was one of those freak things," Zimmermann said. "I didn't [think] anything too serious was wrong. He had the MRI and all the damage [was there]. I'm definitely happy to have him back. He is great behind the plate. He has soft hands, [and presents a] big target. He is everything a pitcher could ask for."

Before Saturday's game, manager Davey Johnson told Ramos to go down on both knees if he had to go after a wild pitch or passed ball. One thing Ramos does differently is that he uses plastic cleats instead of wearing spikes. When Ramos was going after the wild pitch last year, his spikes were caught in the turf and caused the knee damage.

"I feel more comfortable with plastic cleats," Ramos said.

In his first game in Cincinnati, Ramos had a great game, hitting two home runs and driving in three runs in a 7-6 victory. Ramos is now 4-for-9 (.444) to start the season. It helps that he is in a crouch position while in the batter's box.

"He has been great ever since Day 1 of Spring Training," Johnson said about Ramos. "He is swinging the bat great, catching great and [doing] everything great."

Can one imagine how Ramos felt after hitting the home runs? Almost a year later, Ramos said he was excited to be back at Great American Ball Park and doesn't think about what happened last year.

"I know I got hurt here, but I forgot about it," Ramos said. "So today, I just [went] out there and [played] hard. It feels good at the plate, right now."

Back tightness keeps LaRoche out of lineup

NYY@WSH: LaRoche drives in Zimmerman with base hit

CINCINNATI -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson decided not to start first baseman Adam LaRoche on Saturday against the Reds. LaRoche has been experiencing back tightness since Wednesday against the Marlins. It didn't help that LaRoche was dealing with the cold weather that day. Johnson started Chad Tracy instead.

There is a possibility LaRoche may not play on Sunday afternoon, too. If he doesn't play, he will also have the off-day on Monday and look to return to action against the White Sox the next day. LaRoche is using ice, plus anti-inflammatory, muscle-relaxing-type medication to get rid of his back pain.

"I'm trying to get ahead of it a little bit," LaRoche said.

Asked on Saturday how he was doing, LaRoche said, "It's not great. I hope it's a weather thing, the cold weather. I tweaked something in there. Luckily, nobody thinks it's anything other than muscle. It's just a muscle that gripped and won't let go. It's knotted up in there. We are just doing everything we can to get it to release itself."

LaRoche is 0-for-13 to start the season, and he said he hasn't been able to swing the bat freely lately because of the injury.

"As soon as I can swing freely, even if there is still some pain there, I'm fine with that," LaRoche said.

Worth noting

• Entering Saturday's action, the Nationals are hitting .216 and have a 3.86 ERA.

• Denard Span has a .563 on-base percentage entering Saturday's action against the Reds.