MIAMI (AP) -The game had been over for half an hour, and cheers kept ringing in Hanley Ramirez's ears. He stood at his locker, trying to hold his squirmy 2-year-old son, Hansel, who grinned at the TV cameras trained on his dad and hollered sound bites.
``Papi! Papi!' Hansel screamed.
The return of Ramirez's home-run swing had his fans roaring Sunday, when he helped the Florida Marlins rally past the Washington Nationals 9-3.
Ramirez drove in four runs with two homers, Josh Johnson overcame a slow start and the Marlins took the rubber game to win a series for the first time in two weeks.
``When you've got a shortstop hitting the ball like that, it's fun to watch,' Johnson said.
Ramirez hit a three-run homer in the third inning to put Florida ahead, then added a solo homer in the sixth. The 2009 NL batting champion had only two homers and seven RBIs in April, but in two games this month, he has three homers and seven RBIs.
``I had a tough April. I was waiting for May,' Ramirez said. ``I told everybody, 'No worries. I know I'm going to get hot, and when it's hot, it's hot.''
Ramirez's 10th multihomer game left him one shy of Mike Lowell's franchise record. His surge has been contagious, with the Marlins outscoring the Nationals 16-4 and out-hitting them 23-10 in the past two games.
``He makes this team go,' Johnson said. ``It's such a big lift for our team when he's hitting. And everybody knows he's going to hit.'
Johnson (3-1) gave up two runs in the second and then settled down, departing after six innings on a sunny, 85-degree afternoon with a 7-2 lead.
``This was the first day it was hot,' the Marlins' ace said. ``It's good to get that feeling back, because it's going to be like this the rest of the summer. I sweated a lot. I feel like I lost 20 pounds.'
Johnson walked four and struck out eight. Four relievers completed a six-hitter, after Florida's Chris Volstad pitched a four-hitter to beat Washington on Saturday.
The Nationals, still above .500 in May for the first time since 2005, concluded a 3-3 trip.
``They are agitated and irritated that they lost these two games,' manager Jim Riggleman said. ``I like the fact that they don't brush it off.'
With runners in scoring position, the Nationals went 5 for 28 in the series, including 2 for 11 Sunday, when they struck out 11 times.
``Everybody is trying to get the big hit,' outfielder Willie Harris said. ``You just keep searching for the big hits. They'll come.'
John Lannan (1-2) allowed six runs in five innings and remained winless in his past four starts.
``I started missing some pitches on the outside corner,' the left-hander said. ``I've got to live on that corner. I'm not throwing hard enough to blow balls by guys.'
Florida trailed 2-0 before scoring four in the third. Brett Carroll was hit by a pitch, Cameron Maybin walked and Gaby Sanchez hit an RBI single for Florida's first hit. Ramirez followed with a homer to center.
Ramirez hit a two-out homer in the sixth, and a single in the eighth hiked his average to .316 To regain his pop, he said he has been working in the batting cage to shorten his swing and focus on driving the ball.
The surge comes just in time for a three-game series beginning Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants. Is he ready to face the starting staff with the lowest ERA in the major leagues?
``They're going to have to face me,' Ramirez said. ``No worry. It doesn't matter who we're facing. They're coming to our house, and we've got a pretty good team.'
Notes: The teams matched diving catches. Marlins right fielder Cody Ross misjudged Josh Willingham's fly in the third inning and retreated several steps, then sprinted forward to make a sprawling backhanded grab. Nationals center fielder Nyjer Morgan robbed Jorge Cantu of a hit in the fifth. ... Before his first homer, Ramirez was 4 for 24 against lefties this season. ... With a left-hander pitching, Marlins 2B Chris Coghlan was given the day off. Coghlan does not have an extra-base hit this season. ... Washington SS Ian Desmond played his 18th consecutive errorless game. ... The Nationals have Monday off, then begin a season-high stretch of playing 20 days in a row.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved