Joe Ross

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Joe Ross, Erick Fedde growing rapidly at crucial time for Nationals

Joe Ross, Erick Fedde growing rapidly at crucial time for Nationals

WASHINGTON -- Joe Ross didn’t want to talk. He learned a few minutes prior he was going back to Triple-A Fresno for the third time and just shook his head when asked if he had a minute while sitting at his locker.

That was June 23, a day after Ross allowed four earned runs during a one-inning relief appearance versus Atlanta. His ERA was 11.05. And, Ross was irritated. 

His situation since spring had been in flux. Jeremy Hellickson’s major-league deal all but assured Hellickson the fifth spot in the rotation. Which meant the Nationals tried to figure out what to do with Ross and Erick Fedde. Bullpen? Minor leagues as backup starters? Both? 

The choice, eventually, was the latter. Fedde and Ross went between roles and locales without knowing how long they would stay in either. Injuries in the rotation finally clarified their situation, and they have suddenly grown. Gone -- for now -- are episodes of crumbling with runners on base or decline in tempo. In is the ability to remain in control when the game is speeding up. An example from Tuesday night’s 3-1 Nationals win: leadoff double in the fourth inning against Ross. Joey Votto ahead in the count 2-0, Ross comes back to strike him out. A fly out to left, a fly out to right, inning over.

“Maturity,” Davey Martinez said. “The biggest thing for them is the tempo. When things start going bad, you have to find a way to slow the game down. And they're both doing that. I saw that with Fedde [Monday]. I think he's gathered himself, Joe did the same thing. He threw bad pitches and got his stuff back, gathered himself and got right back in the at-bat. 

“For me, that's signs of maturity. Moving forward we need both of these guys. They're doing well. They're pitching well. With Joe, when I was on the other side, watching Joe pitch, he's throwing the ball, right now, about as good as I've seen him from the other side. His two-seamer is sinking really well. He throws his four-seamer up and away with two strikes, which is unbelievable. His curveball has been very, very effective, and he can throw it for a strike now. he gets a lot of chase. You want to call it a slider? I think of it more as a cutter, about 89-90. It makes him more effective as well.”

Ross attributes the late movement on his two-seamer to a slight mechanical change of raising his knee higher during his delivery. Tuesday, he threw 46 sinkers which resulted in just four swinging strikes. However, the 10 of those sinkers put in play traveled just an average of 88.4 mph. 

The recent changes and growth in effectiveness led to 17 ⅓ consecutive scoreless innings for Ross -- the most this season by a Nationals pitcher. In his last 18 innings, Ross has allowed one earned run. Fedde is on a more modest run: two earned runs in his last 12 innings. 

But, both have done it while Max Scherzer tries to fix his back issues and the Nationals elbow their way through a taut wild-card race. Washington is 1 ½ games in front for the lead wild-card spot. Scherzer hasn’t won a game since July 6. Fedde and Ross are a combined 4-0 in August, improving when needed most. 

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Nationals recall Joe Ross, will likely start Sunday

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Nationals recall Joe Ross, will likely start Sunday

The Washington Nationals recalled right-handed pitcher Joe Ross from Triple-A Fresno on Friday, ahead of their three-game series against the Atlanta Braves. 

Because of Ross' recall, the Nationals optioned shortstop Adrian Sanchez to Double-A Harrisburg.

Ross is likely to start on Sunday, in the Nats' sixth game in five days, after rainouts Monday and Tuesday forced Washington into a doubleheader on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Phillies. 

However, Ross could also appear out of the bullpen before then, since Washington enters Friday depleted in that area. 

Ross began his career with Washington as a starter. In 2018, Ross started three September games for the Nats after making his major-league debut on Sept. 13 against the Chicago Cubs.

But, at the start of 2019 Ross took on a bullpen role. In 16 appearances out of the bullpen, Ross put up a 9.22 ERA over 13 2/3 innings, though he struck out 12 batters. 

Since the Nationals optioned Ross to Fresno in late May, Ross made four starts for the Grizzlies and threw a 2.65 ERA in 17 innings, including 10 strikeouts. 

As Ross makes the spot start in the series finale Sunday, he'll follow Stephen Strasburg's Friday start and Anibal Sanchez on Saturday.

Strasburg has been solid for the Nats so far this season, while Sanchez enters on a hot streak; since the end of April the righty has only allowed seven earned runs in seven starts.

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Nationals bullpen helps secure win over Braves after Joe Ross exits with injury

Nationals bullpen helps secure win over Braves after Joe Ross exits with injury

WASHINGTON (AP) – Anthony Rendon reached base four times, the Washington bullpen allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings, and the Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 10-5 on Sunday.

Rendon scored twice and drove in a pair as the Nationals salvaged a split of the four-game series with the Braves to enter the All-Star break with a 9 -game lead over Atlanta in the National League East.

Washington starter Joe Ross left the game with an apparent injury with one out in the fourth.

Reliever Matt Grace (1-0) allowed two runs, one earned, over 2 2/3 innings. Joe Blanton, Enny Romero and Matt Albers each threw a scoreless inning.

With Washington leading by one, Rendon provided an insurance run in the seventh. He walked, stole second and went to third on a throwing error by catcher Tyler Flowers. Rendon scored on a Matt Wieters' sacrifice fly.

The Nationals pulled away with three runs in the eighth.

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Atlanta's Johan Camargo had three hits, including a solo home run -- his first in the majors - and a walk. Freddie Freeman added a three-run homer and a single.

Chris Heisey's RBI-double broke a 3-3 tie in the fourth and Wieters smacked a two-run single in the fifth.

Camargo's homer and a Nick Markakis fielder's choice pulled Atlanta within 6-5 in the sixth. The second run was unearned following a two-base error on Bryce Harper that allowed Freeman to go all the way to third on a single.

After Ross got Markakis to start the fourth, pitching coach Mike Maddux came out to the mound and was soon joined by the team trainer. Manager Dusty Baker then came out and Ross was removed in favor of Grace.

Ross, whose velocity appeared lower than his norm, allowed three runs on three hits over 3 1/3 innings.

Washington led 3-0 when Ross issued a pair of two-out walks in the third and Freeman followed with his 16th homer of the season.

Atlanta rookie Sean Newcomb (1-4) allowed four runs on four hits over four innings.

Rendon's two-run double capped a three-run Washington first as Newcomb threw 39 pitches.