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Nationals and Joe Ross look to bounce back from back-to-back losses

Washington Nationals' right-hander Joe Ross takes the mound tonight against the Milwaukee Brewers he dominated in June when he faced them in Miller Park. Can Ross help snap the Nats' two-game slide?

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Joe Ross has struggled in his last two starts, back-to-back losses to the Dodgers and Giants on the road in LA and San Francisco, giving up 12 hits, five walks and nine runs in 8 ⅔ innings pitched over which opposing hitters have put up a combined .316/.395/.658 line against him.

Over seven starts before those outings, the 22-year-old rookie right-hander gave up 37 hits, 15 runs (14 earned) and four walks in 45 innings, with a .222/.249/.329 line against over that stretch.

"Just command. Throwing the ball over the plate. Aggressive in the strike zone, getting ahead of guys and using the slider too, so, pitched really well..." -Matt Williams on Joe Ross vs the Brewers in June

Tonight in the nation's capital, however, he was taking on a Milwaukee Brewers team he dominated over eight innings back in June, in his second major league start, giving up seven hits, a walk and two earned runs in a 7-2 win in Miller Park.

Nats' skipper Matt Williams talked after the outing about what was working for the 2011 San Diego Padres' 1st Round pick the Nationals acquired this winter.

"Just command," Williams said. "Throwing the ball over the plate. Aggressive in the strike zone, getting ahead of guys and using the slider too, so, pitched really well. We needed that one."

It was even more impressive, the second-year skipper said, because Ross wasn't familiar with the hitters he was facing.

"He doesn't know these guys," Williams explained.

"We've got scouting reports for him, but, you know he's throwing it where he wants to, that's the most important thing. Down in the zone, quality strikes down, got some ground balls today, pitched really well."

"I felt good," Ross said afterward."I was kind of feeling for my breaking balls, you know, slider and changeup early on, and then around the fifth or sixth inning it felt a lot more comfortable, like I could throw it where I wanted to.

"A lot of strikes, I didn't walk anyone until the second-to-last batter, I think. So that helped with pitch count, definitely, being able to go deep."

"I'm impressed," Wilson Ramos said. "I'm impressed with how he threw today.

"Everything worked good and that's the [kind] of guy we need in the rotation, guys like him [that] attack the hitter. Today was an amazing game for him."

The win followed back-to-back losses to the Brewers and occurred during a stretch which saw the Nationals lose five of six overall.

Things are even worse this time around for Washington, after a sloppy, dispiriting, 10-3 loss last night.

The Nationals have dropped two straight and eight of their last ten, falling 5.0 games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets with 41 games left on the schedule.

"It's important for us to be competitive in all aspects," Williams said on Friday. "Tonight it wasn't that way.

"So, again, I'll preach it again. We think this way: Tonight's over, we have to get them tomorrow. Certainly want to be out there playing clean and getting the outs we should get and not giving them extras. You pay for it eventually."

Can Joe Ross stop the losing and help the Nationals even things up with the Brewers?

Here's the lineup that will back Ross up in the second game of three with Milwaukee in D.C.:

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