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Poised Ross has earned right to stay in rotation

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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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Jose Urena throws 1st complete game, Marlins rout Nationals 12-1

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Jose Urena throws 1st complete game, Marlins rout Nationals 12-1

WASHINGTON -- Jose Urena's previous start ended after one very heated pitch.

On Sunday, he went the distance.

Urena made the most of his borrowed time, pitching a two-hitter for his first complete game in the majors and leading the Miami Marlins over the Washington Nationals 12-1 on Sunday.

Urena (4-12) was suspended for six games by Major League Baseball after hitting Atlanta rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. on Wednesday. Urena was ejected from that start after throwing one fastball and appealed the penalty, keeping him eligible to play.

"I know what I did, and I know what kind of person I am and what kind of teammate," Urena said. "Just tried to execute my plan and go out there and have fun and show what I can do."

Urena, tied for the NL lead in hit batters, didn't plunk anyone on the Nationals, nor did he alter his approach. He struck out four, walked two and retired the last 16 batters. It was his first complete game in 74 big league starts.

"If you make a mistake you've got to pay," Urena said of Washington's lineup. "We tried to move their feet, make them uncomfortable at the plate. Try to attack the inside."

Right-hander Pablo Lopez was originally slated to start Sunday's game, but manager Don Mattingly opted to push him back to Tuesday and insert Urena.

The 26-year-old right-hander's next start would normally be scheduled for next weekend at home against the Braves. Urena could decide to drop the appeal, serve the suspension and miss that series -- after the game, he said he'll maintain the appeal.

Starlin Castro got a career-high five hits and scored three times. JT Riddle and J.T. Realmuto each homered and drove in three runs for Miami, with Riddle connecting for the second straight game. Isaac Galloway had three hits, including his first career homer.

It was the Marlins' first series win in Washington since 2014.

Trying to keep pace with the Braves and Phillies in the NL East, the third-place Nationals have now lost four of their last five against the last-place Marlins. The Nationals host the Phillies for three games beginning Tuesday night.

Gio Gonzalez (7-10) allowed eight runs on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings. Over his last 13 starts, Gonzalez is 1-8 with 7.07 ERA.

"I think it was in all honesty an ugly game. And everybody saw it," manager Dave Martinez said. "Gio couldn't keep us in the game and it got ugly."

Leading 3-1, the Marlins broke it open with a five-run fifth. After Riddle's sacrifice fly, the Marlins loaded the bases and Rafael Ortega hit a bases-loaded, two-run double off the glove of a diving first baseman Matt Adams to end Gonzalez's afternoon.

Realmuto greeted reliever Greg Holland with a two-run single, making it 8-1.

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Bryce Harper drives in 3, Nationals snap skid, beat Cardinals 5-4

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Bryce Harper drives in 3, Nationals snap skid, beat Cardinals 5-4

ST. LOUIS -- Koda Glover rewarded his manager's faith.

Bryce Harper had three hits and drove in three runs, Glover earned the save in the first opportunity since Ryan Madson was placed on the disabled list, and the Washington Nationals snapped a four-game losing streak with a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night.

The Nationals won for just the third time in their last 10 games and snapped the Cardinals' season-high, eight-game winning streak.

"We needed a win today," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "Get on that plane, have a nice happy flight and come back tomorrow and be at home and be ready."

Tanner Roark (8-12) gave up four runs, three earned, in six innings.

A beleaguered bullpen that had blown two leads to start the losing streak took care of the rest. Justin Miller pitched two scoreless innings before Glover closed it out.

"There's been a lot of changes (in the bullpen)," Miller said. "It's unfortunate, a couple of injuries and stuff like that, but I don't really look at it as I've got the seventh or eighth or anything like that. I'm just going out there just trying to do my job."

Glover took the loss in the series opener on Monday, giving up a game-ending homer to Paul DeJong.

"The first game of the series didn't go as I would have liked for it to have went," Glover said. "So to get put back in that situation or even a better situation to get a save, I'm happy with that outcome."

Harper drove in the game's first run with a double in the first and knocked in two more with a bases-loaded single in the fourth to give the Nationals a 4-1 lead.

A pair of errors helped the Nationals extend their lead to 5-1 in the fifth. St. Louis committed three errors in the game after committing just four total errors during the winning streak.

"A couple plays clearly we expect to make and will make and just didn't go our way for a little bit there," Cardinals interim manager Mike Shildt said. "To the guys' credit they regrouped, settled down, and started playing back to the baseball they know they can play."

The Nationals had opportunities to pad the lead, leaving the bases loaded in the third and fifth while stranding nine runners in the first five innings.

"When you have an opportunity to put teams away you've got to do that," Martinez said. "Especially with how hot the Cardinals are playing right now. They're going to come back."

The Cardinals got within one in the sixth. After DeJong and Kolten Wong came up with back-to-back, two-out RBI hits, Harrison Bader hit a slow grounder to third. Anthony Rendon's throw to first got away from Ryan Zimmerman for an error, allowing Wong to score from second to cut the Nationals' lead to 5-4.

Just two of the four runs Luke Weaver (6-11) allowed in his 3 2/3 innings were earned. He gave up seven hits, including two to Roark, who scored both times.

Tyson Ross allowed one unearned run in 3 1/3 innings of relief.

Bader homered in the third and Matt Carpenter walked twice to extend his on-base streak to a career-high 34 games.

TRAINING ROOM

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson will have an MRI on his sore right wrist on Friday. RHP Joe Ross (right elbow surgery) threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings at Class A Potomac on Thursday and is hoping for a September return.

Cardinals: RHP Carlos Martinez (right shoulder strain) will begin a rehab Friday at Double-A Springfield. RHP Adam Wainwright (right elbow inflammation) threw two scoreless innings Thursday night at High-A Palm Beach.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (15-5, 2.19 ERA) will take the mound as the Nationals return home for a three-game series Friday night against the Miami Marlins and RHP Dan Straily (4-5, 4.42 ERA). Scherzer is 3-0 with a 3.43 ERA in three starts this season against the Marlins.

Cardinals: RHP Jack Flaherty (6-6, 3.22 ERA) kicks off a three-game series Friday night as the Cardinals host the Milwaukee Brewers and RHP Freddy Peralta (5-3, 4.47 ERA). Flaherty struck out a career-high 13 batters in his last start against the Brewers on June 22.