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Nats Nightly: Joe Ross keeps rolling along in Nationals' 6-1 win over the Cardinals

Washington Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker said he was impressed, but not surprised, with what Joe Ross did on the mound against the St. Louis Cardinals in his return to the rotation after time off with a blister on his finger.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Before he took the mound on Saturday afternoon in St. Louis, Joe Ross hadn't pitched in competitive action since he left his April 20th start against the Miami Marlins after just two innings with a blister on his right middle finger.

Washington Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker told reporters before the second game of three with the Cardinals in Busch Stadium that he would keep a close eye on his 22-year-old starter.

"We've got to keep an eye on him and hope the time off does him well and that's he's pretty sharp," Baker said.

"There's nothing finer than a young pitcher that gets confidence and knows that he belongs here and he certainly has confidence..." -Dusty Baker on Nationals' starter Joe Ross

"He was pretty sharp last time when he had time off because of the rain... He had a very good pen. The finger looks ugly, but the skin has healed over, and the trainers did a great job on him."

Ross took the mound with a 4-0 lead, and gave up a double in the first at bat of the Cardinals' first, then retired eleven straight batters before surrendering back-to-back singles with two out in the fourth.

Both of those runners were stranded.

A run scored in the fifth, snapping a streak of 19 ⅔ scoreless innings which stretched back to the first inning of his first start of the year. It was the only run Ross allowed in six innings of work on the mound in St. Louis.

When he was done for the day, the second-year starter, who earned the win, was (3-0) on the year with a 0.79 ERA, a 2.88 FIP, seven walks (2.78 BB/9) and 14 Ks (5.56 K/9) in 22 ⅔ IP, over which he's held hitters to a .190/.267/.260 line.

The time off didn't seem to slow Ross down at all.

"It felt normal," he told reporters, including MASNSports.com's Mark Zuckerman:

"I felt good. I think my (velocity) was up a little bit. But I felt strong. There wasn’t really an inning or two of trying to settle in. I felt good from the get-go. I think the time off paid off."

Baker liked what he saw from Ross, though he said he's not surprised by what the young righty has done thus far this season.

"I'm impressed. I'm not surprised," Baker said. "Because I heard that he has as good stuff as anybody on the staff. I just hadn't seen it. I urged our organization to let us have a chance to see him and [pitching coach] Mike Maddux to work with him, and if he's as good as reported, then, hey, man, there's nothing finer than a young pitcher that gets confidence and knows that he belongs here and he certainly has confidence and he's not intimidated by being in the big leagues."

With the 6-1 win, the Nationals took the three-game set with the Cardinals, giving them their first series win in St. Louis in quite a long time.

"Somebody told me that it's the first time that we won a series here since '07 or something," Baker said.

"Boy, that shows you how tough these Cardinals have been here in their ballpark."

After one more with the Cards today, it's on to Kansas City and another tough challenge for the Nationals.

• We talked about Joe Ross, Jayson Werth, the Nationals' defense and more on the latest edition of Nats Nightly after the win: