Two and a half months into his first season on the bench in Washington, Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker was asked earlier this week who was the biggest surprise for him on the Nats' roster?
Baker pondered the question, and his answer, for a good twenty seconds before responding.
"Probably... I don't know if 'surprise' is the word, because I didn't know much about this team," he said, but, "probably the rise of Joe Ross. Because he was a guy that when I first got here we were trying to sign some other guys and he was maybe going to have to go back to the minors if there wasn't room. Probably Joe Ross."
Through 12 starts before tonight's, Ross, who turned 23 on May 21st, was (5-4) with a 3.01 ERA, a 3.62 FIP, 22 walks (2.76 BB/9), 59 Ks (7.41 K/9) and a .229/.300/.362 line against in 71 ⅔ innings pitched.
His 13th start for the Nationals this season was his first in San Diego against the Padres, who that drafted him with the 25th overall pick in the first round in 2011, then traded him to the Nationals along with top infield prospect Trea Turner in the December 2014 three-team, eleven-player Wil Myers deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Tonight in Petco Park, Ross put together a solid outing and earned the decision, (W, 6-4), giving up six hits, two walks and three earned run in what ended up a 7-5 win over the Padres.
Matt Kemp drove Jon Jay in from third to start the scoring after Jay doubled to center on the first pitch from Ross and moved up on a groundout by Wil Myers. 1-0.
Ryan Zimmerman walked, went first-to-third on a single by Wilson Ramos and scored on a sac fly to center by Anthony Rendon to tie things up at 1-1 in the second.
Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper hit back-to-back, two-out singles off Padres' left-hander Christian Friedrich in the third, and Daniel Murphy followed with a two-run double on a line drive to right as the Nats took a 3-1 lead over the Padres.
Ryan Zimmerman followed with his 10th home run of the season, a two-run blast, sending a screaming liner out to left and off the first floor balcony of the Western Metal Supply Co. building. 5-1 Nationals.
Alexei Ramirez singled and scored on a broken-bat single to right by Jay in the bottom of the fifth, as the Padres pulled within three, 5-2, but Ross stranded runners on first and third when he got Matt Kemp to chase an 0-2 slider out of the zone.
Three pitches into the sixth, however, the Nationals had their four-run lead back after Daniel Murphy hit his 12th home run of the season out to left-center for an opposite field blast that made it 6-2 Nationals.
Former Nats' prospect Derek Norris hit a 2-2 slider out to left on a line, barely clearing the five-foot wall for a two-out solo blast that made it a 6-3 game. No. 8 on the year for the Padres' backstop.
Christian Friedrich's Line: 6.0 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 2 HRs, 94 P, 60 S, 8/4 GO/FO.
Michael Taylor beat out a swinging bunt toward third base, stole second base (No. 8), took third on a Jayson Werth groundout and scored on an RBI single by Bryce Harper as the Nationals added a run off Carlos Villanueva, 7-3.
Joe Ross vs the Padres: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 95 P, 68 S, 8/2 GO/FO.
Oliver Perez took over for the Nationals in the bottom of the seventh, and gave up a walk and a double before he was replaced on the mound.
Blake Treinen took over with runners on second and third and no one out and got a groundout from Myers that brought in a run, 7-4. Matt Kemp took a walk to put runners on the corners, and a run scored on a grounder up the middle off of Yangervis Solarte's bat, 7-5 after seven.
Sammy Solis took the mound in the Padres' eighth and worked around a one-out walk for a scoreless frame.
Yusmeiro Petit came on for the save opportunity in the ninth (with Shawn Kelley likely unavailable according to what Dusty Baker said last night) and worked around a leadoff single for a scoreless frame. Ballgame. 7-5 final.
Nationals now 43-25
- San Diego had won four of their last five series coming into the four-game weekend set with the Washington Nationals.
- Washington started the night with wins in six of their last seven games, nine of the last 11 and 13 of 17, for a .765 winning percentage since 5/29/16.
- The Nationals' 42-25 record through 67 games is the best record in franchise (2005-present) and the second best in the National League, behind only the Chicago Cubs (44-20).
- San Diego is 2-5 in their last seven games against Washington, will losses in three of the last four games between the two teams in Petco Park.
- The Padres don't have a series win against the Nationals since 2011. Their last series win at home was in 2010.
- Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos hit back-to-back home runs in the series opener last night. It was the ninth time this season the Nationals have hit back-to-back blast, second-most in the majors, behind only the Baltimore Orioles (10).
- In today's Padres-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: Wil Myers is 21 for 58 (.362 AVG) with six doubles and eight home runs... in 15 games in June.
- Myers is on pace to set career marks in hits (176), doubles (33) and home runs (35).
- With runners on base, the Padres' first baseman is 33 for 98 (.337 AVG) with three home runs and 28 runs batted in.
- In a bonus Padres-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: San Diego's hitters, as a group, have .284 AVG on the month (147 for 517).
- In today's Nationals-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: Jayson Werth has a .346/.439/.618 line... since May 29th, with three doubles, four home runs, 10 walks and 12 runs scored over that stretch.
- In a bonus Nationals-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: Washington's offense ranks 1st in SLG (.477), 1st in on-base percentage (.344) and runs scored (86)... since June 1st.
- Padres' closer Fernando Rodney has a streak of 23 ⅓ scoreless innings going with an earned run allowed (with just one unearned run allowed over that stretch).
Nationals now 43-25