Joe Ross left his April 20th start against the Miami Marlins early, then missed a turn in the rotation as he waited for a callus/blister on his right middle finger to heal, but Washington's 22-year-old right-hander returned this afternoon to face the St. Louis Cardinals.
He took the mound with a 4-0 lead courtesy of an RBI single to center by Daniel Murphy, who drove Anthony Rendon in from second base, and a two-out, three-run home run to left by Jayson Werth that put the Nationals up 4-0 early in the second game of three in Busch Stadium.
Ross gave up a leadoff double by Jeremy Hazelbaker in the first, but stranded him at third, then proceeded to retire 11 straight batters before Matt Adams and Yadier Molina hit back-to-back, two-out singles in the fourth.
Both runners were stranded, however, as Ross completed four scoreless on 65 pitches, giving him 19 ⅔ scoreless since he last allowed a run in the first inning of his first start of 2016 back on April 10th.
Ruben Tejada and Kolten Wong hit back-to-back singles to start the Cardinals' fifth and Jaime Garcia bunted them into scoring position before Hazelbaker walked to load'em up with one down.
Matt Carpenter hit a sac fly to center to bring in the Cards' first run, 4-1, but Ross got a groundout from Matt Holliday to end the frame.
Joe Ross' Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 93 P, 56 S, 6/5 GO/FO.
Sammy Solis took over for the Nationals in the seventh and worked around an E:5, collecting two Ks in a 17-pitch frame.
Bryce Harper walked, took second on a HBP on Ryan Zimmerman and scored on a single to center by Daniel Murphy when Jeremy Hazelbaker misplayed the liner. 5-1 Nationals. Zimmerman scored on a sac fly by Jayson Werth, 6-1.
Felipe Rivero gave up a two-out double by Yadier Molina in the eighth, but stranded him at second at the end of a 14-pitch frame.
Shawn Kelley handled the ninth. Ballgame. 6-1 final.
Nationals now 16-7
• NATS NOTES:
- After last night's win for Washington, St. Louis still held a 43-28 advantage over the Nationals in the all-time series between the two teams (2005-present), but since 2012, the Cardinals were 9-18 against the Nats in the regular season.
- The Nationals 15-7 start this season is the best start in Nats' history (2005-present) and the second-best in franchise history, behind only the 1979 Montreal Expos, who started 16-6, and the second-best in D.C. baseball history, behind the 1932 Washington Senators, who started 17-5.
- Last night's leadoff home run for Michael Taylor was the fourth leadoff home run of his career.
- Cardinals' catcher Yadier Molina started the day with a 17-game on-base streak going. He extended it to 18-straight with a two-out single in the fourth.
- Cards' rookie Aledmys Diaz and Nats' slugger Bryce Harper were ranked 1-2 in the majors in SLG and OPS headed into play today. Diaz also had the top average in the majors (.420)... he didn't start today, but he came on late and singled in the ninth, .423 AVG.
- Washington's combined 2.42 ERA is the second-best in the majors early this season, behind only the Chicago Cubs' 2.39 ERA.
- Daniel Murphy started the second game of three in St. Louis with hits in 18 of his first 21 games played with the Nationals.
- Over those 21 games, Murphy has put together 10 multi-hit games and he's reached base safely in 37 of 86 plate appearances thus far. He collected two hits again today for 11 multi-hit games.
- The Nationals have committed just seven errors as a team thus far, the lowest total in the majors and their .992 fld% as a team is the major league's best, ahead of the Royals (.990) and Giants (.989).
- Anthony Rendon committed an error in the seventh. No. 8 on the year for the Nationals.
Nationals now 16-7