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Cubs 4-2 over Nationals: Nats' Joe Ross puts together solid MLB debut in loss

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Debuting Washington Nationals' starter Joe Ross retired the first nine batters he faced, but gave up one in the fourth and two in the fifth and Chicago Cubs' starter Jason Hammel improved to (9-0) vs the Nats in his MLB career. 4-2 Cubbies in D.C.

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

5. Joe Ross makes MLB debut: The Washington Nationals acquired Joe Ross along with a player to be named later (Hint: It's Trea Turner) in a three-team, eleven-player deal with the San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays this winter.

Ross, 22, a 2011 1st Round pick, started at High-A in the Padres' system in 2014, putting up a 3.98 ERA, a 3.83 FIP, 28 walks (2.48 BB/9) and 87 Ks (7.70 K/9) in 101 ⅔ IP, and moved up to Double-A at the end of the season, going (2-0) in four games and three starts, with a 3.60 ERA, a 2.67 FIP, one walk (0.45 BB/9) and 19 Ks (8.55 K/9) in 20 IP.

"He's a big power right-handed pitcher at a young age that's really shown us that he has a chance to be an elite prospect and a front of the rotation guy..." -Mike Rizzo on debuting Nats' starter Joe Ross

The Nationals started the right-hander off at Double-A after acquiring him.

In nine starts with the Harrisburg Senators before he was called up, 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 big power right-handed pitcher at a young age that's really shown us that he has a chance to be an elite prospect and a front of the rotation guy," Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told reporters in the nation's capital on Friday.

"He's earned the right to start up here. He's worked extremely hard and he's a guy that we have a lot of faith in, and it's going to be good to see him. I'm excited about him [pitching] in the big leagues for us. It's a credit to our professional scouts who recommended that we trade for him."

MLB.com's Prospect Pipeline scouts offered the following scouting report on Ross, who was ranked 4th overall in the Nats' system for 2015, behind only 2012 1st Round pick Lucas Giolito, 2010 4th Round pick A.J. Cole and hard-throwing right-hander Reynaldo Lopez:

"Ross's fastball sits in the low to mid 90s and reaches 97 mph. The pitch leads to a lot of ground-ball outs, thanks to its tailing life and the downhill angle his height allows him to throw from. His power slider gives him a second above-average offering, and he's made strides with his changeup to round out his arsenal."

In five starts in May before he was called up to face the Cubs today, Ross was (2-1) with a 2.30 ERA, five walks and 30 Ks in 31 ⅓ over which he held opposing hitters to a .236 AVG.

"He’s gotten better each and every start," Rizzo said. "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."

In his first inning of work this afternoon, Ross started things off with a 95 mph fastball for a called strike and then a swinging K on a 94 mph 1-2 heater to Cubs' center fielder Dexter Fowler. Anthony Rizzo grounded into the shift for out no.2 and Kris Bryant sent a fly to right field on a 2-1 heater that Bryce Harper caught for out no.3 of a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.

A fly to center and two groundouts gave Ross six straight outs to start the game, and his 15-pitch second left him at 29 pitches total after two.

Wilson Ramos pounced on a bunt attempt by Jonathan Herrera. Jason Hammel battled Ross for seven pitches before chasing a 3-2 fastball up high. Addison Russell chased an 0-2 slider into the dirt. 12-pitch, 1-2-3 third, nine Cubs up, nine Cubs down. 41 pitches overall.

Dexter Fowler hit a 2-2 change to right for the first hit of the game off the Nationals' starter, and went first-to-third on Anthony Rizzo's fifth hit in ten at bats through two-plus games in this series, before scoring on a sharp grounder to third by Kris Bryant that ate up Anthony Rendon. 1-1 game. Miguel Montero grounded into a force at second for the first out of the frame. Junior Lake chased a 2-2 slider into the dirt. Chris Coghlan stepped in with two on and two out and grounded into a force at second on a 3-0 pitch. 28-pitch fourth, 69 total.

Jonathan Herrera bunted for a hit in the first at bat of the fifth, and was running and took second on a grounder to first by Jason Hammel in the next at bat. Addison Russell stepped in with a runner in scoring position and grounded out to second, moving Herrera to third, and Dexter Fowler drove him in with a two-out, line drive single to left that made it 2-1 Cubbies. Anthony Rizzo got hold of an 0-1 change in the next at bat and drove a two-run double to right to bring Fowler around and make it 3-1 Cubs after four and a half. 22-pitch frame. 91 pitches for Ross.

Joe Ross' Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 Ks, 91 P, 58 S, 8/3 GO/FO.

4. Hammel vs the Nationals: Coming off a 117-pitch, 6 ⅔-inning outing against the Miami Marlins on the road in Marlins Park in which he struck out a season-high eleven batters and earned his fourth win, giving up five hits and one earned run in a 5-1 Cubs' win, Chicago right-hander Jason Hammel took the mound today in the nation's capital with a (4-2) record, a 2.82 ERA,  a 2.67 FIP, seven walks (0.94 BB/9) and 69 Ks (9.27 K/9) in ten starts and 67 IP.

"I really didn't want to take him out," Maddon said. "His stuff kept getting better." -Joe Maddon on lifting Jason Hammel after 117 pitches vs Marlins to the Chicago Tribune

Hammel entered today's outing leading the majors in WHIP (0.90), ranked second overall in opponents' OBP (.241), tied for third in baserunners per nine innings pitched (8.46) and fourth in BB/9.

As the Cubs' pregame notes mentioned, he was on a streak of seven consecutive starts in which he'd allowed five hits or less, the longest such streak in the majors this season.

Hammel missed the Nationals last week during the three-game set in Wrigley Field. He was facing Washington this afternoon in the nation's capital for the 11th time in his career after going (8-0) in the previous ten outings with a 3.11 ERA, 12 walks and 58 Ks in 66 ⅔ IP, over which he'd held Nats' hitters to a combined .237/.270/.370 line.

His eleven start vs the Nationals and 12th outing of the 2015 campaign began with a 13-pitch first in which he worked around a two-out, opposite field single by Bryce Harper for a scoreless frame.

Wilson Ramos took the first pitch of the Nationals' second for a ride, sending a home run out to the back seats of the Red Porch seats for a solo blast that made it 1-0 Nats. No.4 for Ramos. Nine-pitch second, 22 total after two.

A quick, seven-pitch, 1-2-3 third left Hammel at 31 pitches. Hammel added two Ks, one swinging and one looking in a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth, 45 total, 3 Ks.

Given a 3-1 lead to work with, Hammel went out for the fifth and retired the first two batters he faced before a two-out walk to Danny Espinosa, but Tyler Moore sent a fly to right to end a 17-pitch fifth that left Hammel at 60 pitches.

Denard Span walked to start the Nats' half of the sixth, but Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a 6-4-3 DP. Bryce Harper stepped in with two out and lined out to left to end a 13-pitch frame. 73 total for Hammel after six.

Anthony Rendon popped out to second, Wilson Ramos lined out sharply to Chris Coghlan in left for the second out of the seventh. Clint Robinson singled with two down to slow Hammel's roll, but Ian Desmond chased a 1-2 slider out of the zone for a swinging strike three. 13-pitch frame, 86 total.

Danny Espinosa bounced a ground-rule double into the left field bullpen in the first at bat of the eighth, but Dan Uggla K'd looking, Denard Span sent a lineout to left and Ryan Zimmerman K'd swinging to end a 12-pitch frame that left Hammel at 98 pitches.

Hammel came back out for the ninth and gave up a solo home run to left by Bryce Harper. 4-2 Cubs after Harper's 19th. That's it for Hammel.

Jason Hammel's Line: 8.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 2 HR, 100 P, 68 S, 4/5 GO/FO.

• 3. Momentum: Washington's win over the Chicago Cubs last night was their eleventh in the last sixteen games vs the Cubs in Nationals Park, their seventh in their last ten against Chicago and their third win in the last five games against the Cubbies this season, but just their third in the last ten overall as they've struggled to score runs recently.

"There's momentum within a game, it doesn't mean that tomorrow is any advantage for our team, but within a game, sure." -Matt Williams on each day being a new one regardless of the previous game

The Nats got a three-run home run by Danny Espinosa to get things started last night, and added to their lead, which they never relinquished, with an RBI sac fly by Michael Taylor and an RBI single by Denard Span in the fourth and RBI doubles by Wilson Ramos and Dan Uggla in the seventh and eighth, respectively, as the slugged their way to a 7-5 win, which snapped a three-game losing streak.

Matt Williams was asked if the momentum from the win was something that could carry over to today's game?

"There's momentum within a game," he told reporters, "it doesn't mean that tomorrow is any advantage for our team, but within a game, sure. You can get that momentum, it can swing with a great play like Denard, it can swing with a homer like Danny hit, it can also propel itself with Dan Uggla's double to score a run, so all of those things contribute, tomorrow is a new day though, just like today was a new day for us, so we'll prepare that way."

Could the Nationals make it two straight in the third game of four with the Cubs in the nation's capital? Wilson Ramos got the Nats off to a good start with a solo home run in the first at bat of the bottom of the second, the Cubs tied it up in the fourth on an RBI single by Kris Bryant and went ahead 3-1 in the fifth on an RBI single by Dexter Fowler and an RBI double by Anthony Rizzo.

The Nats managed just two hits off Jason Hammel through six, one of them the home run by Ramos.

2. Turning Point(s): It was a three-run home run to left by Danny Espinosa that got the Nationals off to a good start in last night's 7-5 win. This afternoon it was Wilson Ramos, who took the first pitch of the second from Cubs' starter Jason Hamel for a ride to left field and into the back rows of the Red Porch seats for a solo blast and an early 1-0 lead.

• Joe Ross retired the first nine Cubs' batters he faced to start the game, but gave up three straight singles in the first three at bats in the fourth, with the third a hotshot off Kris Bryant's bat that ate up Anthony Rendon and brought Dexter Fowler in for the game-tying run that made it 1-1. Ross limited the damage, however, stranding two.

• The Cubs added two in the fifth, running Ross' pitch count up (50P in 4th/5th, 91 after five). Dexter Fowler singled to left with two down to drive in a run and then scored on a two-out double to right by Anthony Rizzo that made it 3-1 Chicago after four and a half.

1. The Wrap-Up: Felipe Rivero took over on the mound for the Nationals in the sixth and gave up a leadoff walk to Miguel Montero but erased the runner with a 6-4-3 off Junior Lake's bat. Chris Coghlan's fly to center ended a 17-pitch frame.

Rivero came back out for the seventh and retired the side in order in a 15-pitch frame... then came back out for the eighth and retired the side in order in 10-pitch frame. Three scoreless in relief on 42 pitches. Still 3-1 Cubs.

Taylor Hill walked Miguel Montero to start the ninth and two outs later the walk scored on a single to center by Jonathan Herrera, 4-1.

Jason Hammel came back out for the ninth and gave up a solo homer to left by Bryce Harper, so Cubs' skipper Joe Maddon went his closer, Hector Rondon, who walked Anthony Rendon to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Wilson Ramos. Maddon went to the pen again for Pedro Strop. Ramos grounded into a force at second. Clint Robinson went to a full count and chased a slider into the ground. Two down. Ian Desmond? Swinging K on a slider in the dirt.

Nationals now 30-26