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Nats' Ross ready to take next step in 2016 after strong rookie year


Nats' Ross ready to take next step in 2016 after strong rookie year

Most Nationals fans probably didn't know Joe Ross' name just one year ago when he was the second prospect acquired in a multi-team trade centered around Trea Turner, the Nats' shortstop of the future. But it was Ross, not Turner, who made the most immediate and significant impact in Washington in 2015, as the right-hander became one of the more pleasant surprises in a year categorized mostly by letdowns and disappointment.

Ross was called up in early June to help out a Nats' rotation depleted at the time by injuries. At just 22-years-old, Ross went on to set a modern MLB record with 47 strikeouts to only four walks in his first seven starts. 

Ross would come back down to Earth soon after that stretch, but ended up with impressive rookie numbers including a 3.64 ERA through 16 total outings, the final three in relief after the Nats shut him down as a starter due to innings. The Nats saw Ross getting tired in early September and, looking back, Ross says they were right.

"Towards the end I got a little tired. That was a lot more innings than I've thrown than in the past," he said. "I noticed right after the last game in New York on the bus, it just all hit me. It was like 'wow.' My legs and everything were pretty tired, and I hadn't pitched in probably a week or so."

Ross ended up throwing a total of 142 2/3 innings in 2015 spread across the majors, Double-A and Triple-A. That was over 40 innings more than his previous professional high of 122 1/3 set back in 2013.

That workload left Ross completely spent, but he thinks reaching that point will set him up well for 2016.

"It was good to get me ready for this coming year. The main way to get stronger from throwing is to push yourself and get to that limit. Hopefully next year I am in better condition to last longer throughout the year," he said.

Another thing that could produce a better Joe Ross in 2016, is if Joe simply spends more time with his family this winter. His brother, Tyson, is an All-Star pitcher for the Padres. The two are very close and Tyson even made it to Washington to watch Ross' debut at Nationals Park on June 6.

Joe gave some insight into exactly how involved his brother is in his career.

"We talk a lot... after my games mostly. He would watch a lot more of my games than I thought. He would ask me how I felt or how I felt about certain situations and then we would talk about that. He would give me his two cents and give me not just things to work on, but an opinion [on pitch selection, etc.]. I trust him. Obviously, he knows what he's talking about and he's done well so far," he said.

Ross gained a lot in 2015 both physically and mentally, and is now just ready to get started with a new year and a new season.

"I wouldn't say I'm more comfortable [than last winter], but confident having last year with some time in the big leagues. I'm just looking forward to spring training and to see how things will go," he said.

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A quick recap of Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, including how your Nats did


A quick recap of Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, including how your Nats did

Tuesday evening's All-Star game was fairly uneventful until its later innings. The American League triumphed over the National League, 8 - 6, for their sixth straight All-Star game victory.

Despite fears of potential rain and inclement weather delaying the game, there were no unexpected stops in play. 

The AL started very strong offensively, with runs from Aaron Judge and Mike Trout in the top of the second and third innings, respectively. Jean Segura's three-run homer in the top of the eighth made victory look inevitable for the AL by the fifth. 

Max Scherzer, unsurprisingly, was well received among fans at Nationals Park. The Nats starter pitched the first two innings, giving up four hits. One was Judge's second-inning homer, but Scherzer remained unfazed and lighthearted. Four strikeouts made his performance commendable.

Bryce Harper did not get on as well, striking out in both of his at-bats. After Harper's Home Run Derby win last night, there was chatter of him going for the MVP title as well. 

It didn't work out, but given Harper's consistent presence at the All-Star game, there's always another chance.

Elsewhere in the dugout for the NL, who rallied back from the three-run deficit, the kids were all right. Willson Contreras of the Cubs had a solo homer at the bottom of the third, the Rockies' Trevor Story had one in the seventh, and Christian Yelich added another in the eighth. A two-run homer by Scooter Gennett in the bottom of the ninth brought the game back to a 5-5 tie.

Jesus Aguilar struck out for the NL, and extra innings began.

In the top of the tenth, Alex Bregman and George Springer, both of the Astros, hit home runs almost immediately off of Dodgers pitcher Ross Stipling. Stop us if you've heard that one before.

With no outs, Michael Brantley took a sacrifice flyout to right field, and Jean Segura got in one more run to put the score at 8-5.

Though Joey Votto (Reds) hit one last home run in the bottom of the tenth, the NL couldn't quite make up the deficit.

After a late night, the American League will be going home happy.


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2018 MLB All-Star Game Live Blog


2018 MLB All-Star Game Live Blog

This is the year's most ambitious crossover event in baseball. Dozens of MLB standouts from dozens of teams ally along either the National or American league. The two teams play against each other in a lighthearted frankensquad matchup. It's a welcome change of pace, considering how stressed we are about the Nationals' win percentage.

At the moment, we're keeping our eyes to the sky to monitor incoming rain. Aside from the threat of rain delay, we're excited to see how things unfold.

TOP 10 - Yikes, uh, so that's two solo home runs, and still no outs?

BOT 9 - A lot of people have either Bad Bunny or Post Malone as their walk up music. Also, uh, Scooter did a two-run homer, so now we're going to extra innings.

TOP 9 - Nothing is happening. Yawn.

BOT 8 - Yelich homers! We love one Brewer! It's 5-3 AL.

TOP 8 - Segura hits a three-run homer. Cruz adds it to his Instagram story. The AL is up 5-2. Yikes.

TOP 8 - Blackmon is very charming when mic'd up. He's talking about how lonely the outfield is. In other adjacent boredom news, Mike Trout follows over 145 weather related accounts on twitter. Yes, we went through his 2,400 user long following list to check.

BOT 7 - Bottoms tend to be the most exciting. Arenado knows this. So he tied it with a solo homer.

TOP 7 - Please, we are all so tired, and this pace is so slow. Votto has a nice tag, Yelich loses a ball in the lights but still makes the out. 

BOT 6 - Everybody Hates The National League. Votto, Yelich, and Blackmon all come up short.

INT 6 - Everyone on the internet and the broadcast loses their minds over Manny Machado.

TOP 6 - Nelson Cruz goes up against pitcher Jeremy Jeffress to start the inning. We take a brief pause for another selfie. Isn't it kind of a bad idea to have your phone in your pocket when you're at bat? Anyway. Bregman hits a double, but is immediately outshined as we go to Manny Machado for an interview about how it feels to wear an Orioles uniform for (maybe) the last time. Limor pinch hits for Machado, and doesn't quite get it out of the park. Oh well.

BOT 5 - Contreras gets a hit off Jose Berrios and promptly gets tagged first. Javier Baez looks amazing at the plate, but flies out. Arenado walks. Trout-man catches Molina's almost-homer. NL, do better please.

TOP 5 - Aaron Nola strikes out Brandon Crawford fairly easily and Mookie Betts not so easily. Mike Trout, who looks like he would post pictures with trout and other fish on Instagram, pops up and across the first base line. Sorry AL.

BOT 4 - Bryce Harper faces Blake Snell and strikes out for the second time tonight. Maybe he thought tonight was a Strikeout Derby?

TOP 4 - Machado pops up to the third baseman in what may be his final at-bat wearing an Orioles uniform.

TOP 4 - Matt Kemp deftly avoids tampering charges when the FOX broadcast crew asks him about his selfie with Machado.

BOT 2 - Manny begins acquainting himself with his LA teammates.

BOT 2 - Chris Sale only stuck around for one inning, apparently. It's Luis Severino time in D.C. He allows a double from Matt Kemp to start but then strikes out Bryce Harper. 

TOP 2 - Aaron Judge takes Scherzer deep. 1-0 AL. Sigh.

BOT 1 - AL Starter Chris Sale responds with a scoreless frame of his own. We're on our way to that 3-2 thriller after all!!! 

TOP 1 - Scherzer strikes out Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve before walking Mike Trout (can't blame him) and allowing a hit to J.D. Martinez. No damage done though, and it's 0-0.