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Poised Ross has earned right to stay in rotation


Poised Ross has earned right to stay in rotation

Joe Ross wasn’t on anybody’s radar when the season began, barely even known by members of the Nationals major-league coaching staff. He was “The Other Guy Acquired in the Trea Turner Deal,” a young right-hander with some upside but not a pitcher who figured into the picture in 2015.

Which makes Thursday’s events all the more remarkable. Needing to remove somebody from their current rotation to open a slot for Stephen Strasburg in his return from an oblique strain, the Nationals elected to move struggling veteran Doug Fister to their bullpen, sticking with Ross as one of their five starters for the stretch run of a pennant race.

And the thing is, Ross absolutely has earned it, both because of his performance and because of the way he has handled everything since making his major-league debut earlier this summer.

“I just think he has been unfazed by any of it, from his opening start through today,” manager Matt Williams said. “He’s aggressive, he throws strikes. He’s faced some pretty good pitching when he’s been on the mound, and he’s held his own with all of them. So I just think he’s prepared and he’s ready and he’s unfazed by any of it.”

The numbers speak for themselves. Through seven big-league starts, Ross owns a 2.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and astounding, 47-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 45 total innings.

This from a 22-year-old who had started all of three games above Class A prior to this season. So how is it that Ross has managed to maintain so much poise since being thrown to the wolves with little experience?

“That’s something I learned, I guess, when I was younger,” he said. “Ever since pro ball, it’s really become an important thing. Especially as a pitcher, once you kind of get down on yourself, the other team and their hitters can jump on that and try to capitalize. Especially here, the biggest thing is focusing from pitch-to-pitch. And if one guy gets you, then it’s on to the next guy and try to go from there.”

The younger brother of an All-Star, San Diego’s Tyson Ross, Joe Ross has displayed maturity beyond his years since arriving in D.C. These traits aren’t common in 22-year-olds, but the Nationals have quickly realized this is no common 22-year-old.

“It’s rare,” Williams said of Ross’ advanced mental approach to the game. “But he understands if he makes pitches, he has a chance to get them out. We’ve seen so far that he doesn’t walk a whole lot of guys and makes them put the ball in play. And that’s important.”

From a baseball standpoint, the decision to keep Ross in the rotation over Fister was an easy one. But there were some complicating factors standing in the way, most notably the fact the Nationals are monitoring Ross’ workload this season and likely will cap his innings pitched. He has now thrown a combined 121 innings in the majors and minors this year, essentially duplicating his totals from both 2013 and 2014.

The Nationals typically restrict young pitchers to a roughly 30 percent increase in innings pitched from one year to the next, which suggests Ross will capped around the 160-inning mark. Which also means he may not make it through the rest of the season in the starting rotation.

The organization isn’t saying for sure what its plan is the rest of the way for Ross, but it stands to reason Fister may still be needed to start games come some point in September.

For now, the Nationals are thrilled simply to have the kid pitching every fifth day. And pitching quite well.

“Joe’s confident in his ability,” first baseman Clint Robinson said. “He has a lot of poise on the mound. He trusts his stuff and knows that he’s good enough to be up here and be successful. We love having him in the rotation. Good guy, love him to death and what he brings to us.”

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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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.