5. Joe Ross = Stopper: Acquired by the Nationals in the three-team, 11-player trade between San Diego, Tampa Bay and Washington this winter, 22-year-old right-hander Joe Ross, a 2011 first-round pick by the Padres, made nine starts with the Nats' Double-A affiliate, the Harrisburg Senators, before he was called up to make his major league debut last week in the nation's capital.
In those outings, Ross posted a 2.81 ERA, a 2.84 FIP, 12 walks (2.10 BB/9) and 54 Ks (9.47 K/9) in 51 ⅓ IP.
"He’s a stuff guy that throws strikes with multiple pitches and he’s prepared to take on the challenge of the big leagues at a young age," Nats' skipper Mike Rizzo told reporters before Ross debuted.
"He’s in an important stage of his career. He’s got really good stuff and he’s performed admirably at each level he’s at and that’s one of the reasons we felt he’d be the guy, at least until some of our veteran starters get ready."
Ross started his major league career with three scoreless against Chicago, but the Cubs scored three runs in the next two innings before he was lifted, having given up six hits and three runs in five innings, in which he threw 91 pitches, 58 for strikes.
"The first three were good," Nationals' manager Matt Williams said. "They got to him in the fourth. It was a situation where we had to hit for him to try to get back in the game. He could have gone another one, but all in all I think he threw the ball well. He was unfazed by the magnitude of it, went about his business well."
Well enough that the Nationals decided to give Ross a second start. He took the mound in Milwaukee this afternoon, looking to help give the Nats a chance at a split of the four-game set with the Brewers after they dropped the first two of four in Miller Park.
Ross had a 1-0 lead when he took the mound in the bottom of the first, and retired the side in order in a nine-pitch, eight-strike opening frame.
Adam Lind sent a single through the left side in the first at bat of the second, and took second base one out later on a wild pitch to Gerardo Parra. A groundout to first got Ross out no.2, with Lind taking third, but a two-out, infield single by Jean Segura brought Lind in and tied things up at 1-1. Scooter Gennett got hold of a 1-2 slider in the next at bat and lined an RBI double into the right-center gap to bring Segura around and make it 2-1 Brewers. 22-pitch frame, 31 total for Ross after two.
Jonathan Lucroy singled with one down in the bottom of the third, but two outs later he was stranded at first and Ross was through three on 45 pitches after a 14-pitch frame.
Gerardo Parra singled with one down in the Brewers' half of the fourth, but he was force out at second on a grounder back to the mound that Ross snagged before throwing to second to cut down the lead runner. Scooter Gennett came up with two out and hit a line drive double to center that sent Segura around to third, but the opposing pitcher K'd on an 0-2 slider that ended a 12-pitch fourth. 57 total.
Jonathan Lucroy singled with one down in the fifth, but he was stranded when Adam Lind lined out to a leaping Anthony Rendon at second for out no.3 of a 13-pitch frame. 70 total.
With the Nationals ahead 7-2, Ross retired the Brewers in order in a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth that left him at 80 pitches overall.
Carlos Gomez K'd swinging and ducking at the same time on a 92 mph fastball inside to end a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh that left Ross at 94 pitches. 10 of the last 11 set down.
Ross issued his first walk in the majors to Adam Lind with two down in the Brewers' eighth, but Aramis Ramirez grounded into a force at second to end the frame. 14-pitch inning, 108 overall.
• Joe Ross' Line: 8.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 Ks, 108 P, 77 S, 9/4 GO/FO.
4. Jimmy Nelson: Coming off a scoreless six-inning outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates in PNC Park in which he gave up four hits and three walks while striking out seven and earning his third win, 26-year-old, 2010 Milwaukee Brewers' second round pick Jimmy Nelson was (3-6) on the year, with a 4.05 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 28 walks (3.44 BB/9) and 67 Ks (8.22 K/9) in 12 starts and 73 ⅓ IP before today's start.
At home in Miller Park, Nelson, who'd held opposing hitters to a .230/.311/.366 line overall, had limited visiting hitters to a .208/.267/.425 line, while going (1-2) in five starts with a 3.38 ERA, 4.51 FIP, seven walks (1.82 BB/9) and 36 Ks (9.35 K/9) in 34 ⅔ IP.
The top-ranked prospect in the Brewers' organization entering the 2014 campaign, according to Baseball America, Nelson, who features a sinker that averages 93.1 mph, fastball, that sits at 92.9, slider (81.8), knuckle curve (81.8) and on occasion, a changeup, (which averages 84.8 mph), was making his first career start against the Nationals today.
Anthony Rendon and Yunel Escobar hit back-to-back, one-out singles in front of Bryce Harper in the top of the first inning, and Harper lined the third straight hit to left-center to bring Rendon around and make it 1-0 early. Escobar and Harper were stranded, however, at the end of a 17-pitch first.
Nelson needed just seven pitches to retire the Nationals in order in the second. 24 total.
Given a 2-1 lead to work with, Nelson took the mound in the third and walked Anthony Rendon with one down on some close call balls by home plate umpire Tim Timmons. The walk hurt even more after Yunel Escobar smoked a 1-0 fastball in the next at bat and hit a line drive home run out to center to put the Nats back on top, 3-2. Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos hit back-to-back singles in the next two ABs, but they were both stranded. 29-pitch frame, 53 total.
A seven-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth left Nelson at 60 pitches overall.
Bryce Harper walked with two out in the fifth, and Nelson paid for the walk again when Wilson Ramos hit a two-run blast out to right to make it 5-2 Nats.
Danny Espinosa doubled to center on the first pitch after the homer and Ian Desmond took a HBP on the hand, to set Michael Taylor up with a runner in scoring position he cashed in with a single to center, 6-2. 23-pitch frame, 83 total.
• Denard Span singled to start the sixth and stole second with Anthony Rendon at the plate. Rendon took a HBP from Nelson, on the last pitch of the night for the right-hander.
• Jimmy Nelson's Line: 5.0 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 2 HRs, 89 P, 54 S, 7/2 GO/FO.
EsFirstpinosa: Though he was hitless in five plate appearances in the first two games of four in Milwaukee's Miller Park, Danny Espinosa entered the third game of four with the Brewers 8 for 31 so far in the month of June, with three doubles and five home runs, two walks and six Ks in 34 PAs. Overall on the year, the suddenly-super-utility man was sporting a .255/.351/.466 line on the year, with 10 doubles and eight home runs in 52 games and 186 PAs.
Espinosa led all NL second baseman with the eight home runs and, if qualified, the .466 SLG, would have ranked second among second baseman in the National League and fifth overall amongst second baseman in the majors.
In order to keep his bat in the lineup, the Nationals were reportedly exploring their options in recent weeks, and Espinosa was working out in left field after making his major league debut in the outfield early this week in as an emergency replacement for Denard Span when Span's back tightened up on him.
After playing second and short early in his career, third and now left this season, Espinosa was penciled into the lineup at first base this afternoon for the first time as a pro, at any level.
Nats' skipper Matt Williams explained the decision in his pregame press conference with reporters:
MW wanted Taylor in LF to have best outfield defense. Wanted Espinosa's bat in lineup, so 1B today: "The things you have to do sometimes."— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) June 13, 2015
In his debut as a first baseman, Espinosa went 1 for 5 with a double, a run scored and a nice scoop on a throw from third late in the game. Well played, Espi.
2. Turning Point(s): After having a closed door meeting, according to the Brewers broadcast, the Nationals came out swinging in the first and connected for back-to-back-to-back singles by Anthony Rendon, Yunel Escobar and Bryce Harper, with Harper's line drive to left field bringing Rendon in from second for a 1-0 lead after a half-inning in the third game of four for the Nats in Miller Park.
• Joe Ross threw a wild pitch with one out in the second, allowing Adam Lind to move into scoring position, and the Brewers' first baseman took third base on a groundout before scoring on an infield single by Jean Segura. Ross got up on Scooter Gennett, 1-2 in the next at bat, but Gennett lined a slider to right-center that split the gap and allowed Segura to score from third and put the Brewers ahead, 2-1.
• A half-inning after falling behind, the Nationals retook the lead. Home plate ump Tim Timmons put Anthony Rendon on with some close calls on balls that resulted in a walk and Yunel Escobar hit a screaming liner out to center in the next at bat for a two-run blast that made it 3-2 Nats. Escobar's 3rd.
• Jimmy Nelson's second walk of the game was followed by a home run for the second time. Nelson walked Bryce Harper, who took his 51st free pass (vs 50 Ks) and Wilson Ramos followed with an opposite field blast that put the Nats up 5-2. An RBI single by Michael Taylor made it 6-2.
1. The Wrap-Up: Brewers' lefty Neal Cotts took over on the mound for Milwaukee with two on and no one out in the sixth, and struck Yunel Escobar out for the first out of the frame, but Bryce Harper hit a 1-1 slider to right for an RBI single that made it 7-2 Nationals.
Bryce Harper now has a .494 OBP vs. left-handers this season. That's nuts.— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) June 13, 2015
Cotts came back out for the seventh and retired the Nationals in order.
Will Smith, the left-hander who was suspended for an illegal substance on his arm, not the one who starred in the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" or "The Legend of Bagger Vance", set the Nationals down in order in the eighth.
Michael Blazek hit Bryce Harper in the knee with a fastball in the top of the ninth, knocking Harper out of the game, before completing a scoreless frame.
Casey Janssen took the ball in the ninth and threw a scoreless frame. Ballgame. 7-2 final.
Nationals now 32-30