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Nats looking into Joe Ross' velocity issues after latest rough start

Nats looking into Joe Ross' velocity issues after latest rough start

Just as the Nationals get set to welcome Stephen Strasburg back from the disabled list, they have new problems to worry about with another member of their rotation.

Starter Joe Ross' latest uneven outing uncovered a dramatic drop in his fastball velocity. This year his sinker velocity has been down slightly from 2015, but on Saturday night the difference was obvious.

Ross began the game hitting 94 and 95 miles per hour in the first inning against the Reds. But by the end of his 5 1/3 inning start he was regularly topping out at 89. The Nationals noticed the change on the radar gun and now plan to examine Ross on Sunday to determine what is wrong.

"We're looking into some things," manager Dusty Baker said. "The one good thing about the radar gun is that you can see when a guy’s velocity has gone down."

Ross has averaged 93.4 miles per hour on his sinker this season, but on Saturday he averaged just 91.8 and that number was skewed by the first inning. Baker also mentioned the team has been limiting Ross' innings as of late.

Ross, though, does not believe he is injured.

"I felt good it's just my stuff just wasn't there, command wasn't really there, little frustrating but I feel alright," he said.

Ross is a pitcher that can hit 95 or 96 on his fastball. When it's working it can set his slider up as a lethal out-pitch. Without his fastball working, though, things can fall apart. He explained the impact of a velocity drop after the 9-4 loss.

"It can be tough just because that few miles an hour can kind of get them to commit early on the fastball, makes your offspeed, slider and changeup that much better," he said. "When you don't have that much velocity separation between pitches then it makes it easy for them to sit back and not have to guess on one spot for the location of the pitch. So, it kind of just makes it easier overall for the hitter."

Ross, 23, has had a rough few weeks overall. After beginning the season with a 2.37 ERA through his first 10 starts, he's got a 6.22 mark in the six outings since.

On Saturday night Ross allowed four earned runs on 10 hits, which tied the career-high he set in his previous outing on June 27. It was another night that he ran into trouble early with all four of his runs coming in the first two innings. He also hit two batters and threw a wild pitch.

"Myself and [Max Scherzer] were talking about it on the bench because he’s had a little trouble in the first inning," Baker said. "Trying to figure out why. Do you change a guy’s warm up regimen, or is it something mental? Is he coming out too strong? The second time in a row his balls are about belt high. That’s his slider and his sinker. That’s a formula for getting hit hard because you don’t have to alter your swing to hit it. We will look into it more tomorrow.”

Even with less zip on his fastball, Ross felt he should have been more effective. He didn't think he located his pitches as he should have, either.

"Usually command is one of my things. I feel like I can locate the fastball slider whatever and it just hasn't been that way the past couple games. So that being like my kind of cornerstone, not having that there is tough but just been working on it, hoping I can get it back soon and kind of get my self rolling again," he said.

On Sunday the Nationals will activate Stephen Strasburg from the disabled list. Normally that would mean Lucas Giolito is heading down to Triple-A Syracuse, but Ross' velocity issues may have thrown a wrench into that plan.

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Turner, Adams power Nats over Giants to end 4-game skid

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Turner, Adams power Nats over Giants to end 4-game skid

SAN FRANCISCO -- Trea Turner got five hits, Matt Adams homered and drove in six runs, and the Washington Nationals broke out of their offensive funk in a big way, routing the San Francisco Giants 15-2 Wednesday to end a four-game losing streak.

The Nationals had totaled just eight runs during their skid. Andrew Stevenson had two doubles, two singles and four RBIs as Washington set season highs for runs and hits (18).

Manager Dave Martinez's ballclub has been stunted by a rash of injuries this season but salvaged the final game of the three-game series at AT&T Park series to end a rough 4-5 road trip. Max Scherzer (5-1) did his part, striking out 10 in six innings.

Turner came into the game batting .232, and the leadoff man's slow start had contributed to the Nationals' struggles. He raised his batting average 35 points, tying a career high for hits in a game. He also scored twice, drove in two runs and stole his 10th base this season.

Adams matched his career best for RBIs. He singled as part of a three-run first, put the Nationals up 6-1 with a three-run homer off Jeff Samardzija (1-1) in the fourth and added a two-run single in the eighth.

The Nationals scored 14 of their 15 runs with two outs.

Scherzer earned his fourth consecutive win, all of them coming after a Washington loss. He allowed two runs and five hits, and reached double figures in strikeouts for the fourth time in six starts this season.

Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval each two hits apiece for the Giants.

Samardzija labored through a 30-pitch first inning and was done after retiring 11 batters. He gave up six runs on eight hits with three walks.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman and 2B Howie Kendrick were given the day off.

Giants: Mac Williamson was a late scratch because of neck stiffness, one day after stumbling over the bullpen pitching mound and crashing into a low fence while chasing a foul ball. ... RHP Chris Stratton was placed on the paternity list. ... RHP Roberto Gomez was called up from Triple-A Sacramento.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (2-2, 2.97 ERA) pitches against the Diamondbacks on Friday in Washington. He has yielded six earned runs and three homers over his last 13 innings.

Giants: LHP Derek Holland (0-3, 4.98) faces the Los Angeles Dodgers in the opener of a four-game series at AT&T Park on Friday night. Holland is winless in two career starts against the Dodgers.

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Williamson homers again, Giants top Nationals 4-3

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Williamson homers again, Giants top Nationals 4-3

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mac Williamson had to dust himself off after crashing into a low padded wall near the stands in left field while chasing a foul ball.

More frustrated than hurt, Williamson took it out on Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark a few moments later after undergoing a series of concussion tests in the dugout.

Williamson homered for the second straight night and third in five games, hitting a tiebreaking shot in the sixth inning to lead San Francisco to a 4-3 victory over Washington on Tuesday night.

"I got pretty lucky," Williamson said. "I felt fine then and I feel fine now. I'm sure once the adrenalin wears off later tonight, tomorrow we'll see how the body feels. I'm sure I'll be a little sore."

Brandon Belt hit his fifth home run in six games, Joe Panik added three hits and scored twice, and the Giants won their third straight and fourth in the last five.

One night after hitting a 464-foot homer in the series opener, Williamson hit a first-pitch solo shot to center off Roark with two outs in the sixth inning that bounced off the top of the wall and broke a 3-all tie. It wasn't as far as Monday's clout -- this one went 423 feet -- but was just as pivotal for the Giants.

"We've talked about what a shot in the arm he's been and he's more than that," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He came through again tonight. Good for him because he's worked hard at it."

Williamson's deciding home run came one inning after he stumbled over the bullpen mound in foul territory and crashed into a low wall near the stands while trying to chase down Bryce Harper's foul ball. Williamson stayed down briefly as team trainers rushed out before getting to his feet.

"I tried to roll my neck a little bit and my head down a little bit when I started going down," Williamson said. "I think that helped break my fall. I was just a little frustrated I didn't come up with the play. I had it in my glove and it came out."

Belt hit a two-run shot off Roark (1-2) in the third.

Michael Taylor had a three-run homer for Washington, which has lost four straight and 14 of 20 since opening the season 4-0.

"It seems like that sixth inning's been biting us in the rear as of late," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We're swinging the bats. We just can't get the big hit with people on base."

Reyes Moronta (1-0) retired six batters for his first career win. Sam Dyson pitched one inning and Hunter Strickland worked the ninth for his fifth save.

The Giants got a run off Roark in the first but left the bases loaded when Evan Longoria struck out looking to end the inning. Belt homered on a 3-2 pitch from Roark in the second to make it 3-0.

Washington tied it on Taylor's three-run homer off starter Ty Blach in the third. Ryan Zimmerman walked and Moises Sierra singled before Taylor's deep drive into the right-field stands.

Roark went into the game 6-0 in seven career games against San Francisco but couldn't find a rhythm this time. He allowed four runs on six hits, walked two and hit a batter and threw a pair of wild pitches.

WHERE DID IT GO?

Panik hit a soft comebacker to Roark in the fifth that glanced off the pitcher's glove then bounced up on the top of his cap before falling to the turf. Roark initially couldn't locate the ball but found it in time to throw to first for the out.

AILING BLACH

Blach allowed three runs and four hits in five innings. After the game, Bochy said the left-hander suffered from food poisoning last week and was given an IV on Monday. "That was a really gutty effort that he gave us," Bochy said.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: Placed RHP Shawn Kelley on the 10-disabled list with ulnar nerve irritation in his right elbow. Infielder/outfielder Matt Reynolds was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse and outfielder Rafael Bautista and infielder Adrian Sanchez were called up.

UP NEXT

Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (4-1, 1.36 ERA) and Giants RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-0, 0.00) take to the mound for the series finale at AT&T Park on Wednesday. Samardzija is making his second start after beginning the season on the disabled list.