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Washington Nationals need to get Joe Ross together

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Joe Ross was out after just four innings of work on the mound in Sunday’s series finale with the New York Mets, but the Washington Nationals came out on top...

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

When Stephen Strasburg came off the paternity list last week, Washington optioned Matt Grace back to Triple-A Syracuse, keeping Jacob Turner on the Nationals’ roster after the 25-year-old started against the Colorado Rockies in Coors Field.

Turner went six innings against the Rockies, giving up six hits and three earned runs in an 8-4 loss.

The plan for Turner since he was sticking around and the rotation was full with Ross and Strasburg back?

“He’ll start out probably in the bullpen,” Dusty Baker told reporters in Denver.

“We’ve got to get Joe [Ross] together, so that gives us an extra arm. We know he can give us multiple innings. He throws strikes. We need to know the resiliency of his arm.

“And we feel his arm is probably more resilient than Joe Ross’s has been, so that’s the plan right now.”

The following day, Ross made his second start of the season in the majors, after he began the year at Triple-A.

He went seven innings the first time out, giving up three runs on six hits, but in Coors Field, the right-hander lasted just 4 23 innings, allowing seven hits, two walks and five earned runs in a 90-pitch effort in the Nationals’ 15-12 win.

In start No. 3 of 2017 for the 23-year-old, Ross gave up runs in each of his four innings of work on the mound against the New York Mets on Sunday in Nationals Park, surrendering home runs by catcher Rene Rivera and outfielder Jay Bruce, RBI singles by Bruce and Mets’ pest Michael Conforto and an RBI double by reliever Sean Gilmartin.

He was done after throwing 76 pitches in four innings, replaced by Matt Albers in the top of the fifth.

“We hated to take Joe [Ross] out in the fourth,” Baker told reporters after what ended up a 23-5 win, “but we were trading runs with them. Those guys can hit the ball out of the ballpark. So we’ve got to get Joe — something figured out, but luckily we scored a lot of runs today.”

“I felt good early on,” Ross said after the game, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr:

“I feel like I kind of fell off towards the end in sharpness. Tried to battle my way through the game. Fortunately, we came out on top, so that’s all that really matters. To me, at least.”

What did Baker see from Ross while he was on the mound?

“I don’t know, just some balls, sliders, were up in the zone and the fastballs are kind of in the middle of the plate. I don’t know.”

Ross ended the day on Sunday with a 7.47 ERA (13 ER in 15 23 IP), a 6.15 FIP, four walks (2.30 BB/9), 14 Ks (8.02 K/9) and a .303/.348/.615 line against.

His velocity on his sinker is down slightly (91.6 mph AVG from 92.6 last season, 92.8 career).

He averaged just 91.0 mph with his sinker in Coors Field, and threw his sinker for strikes just 54.3% of the time (19 of 35) on Sunday in D.C.

He’s allowed five home runs in 15 23 IP (2.87 HR/9 in a small sample size), after he gave up nine home runs in 105 innings (0.77 HR/9) in 2016 and seven in 76 23 in 2015 (0.82 HR/9).

Opposing hitters have a .261 AVG against his slider (up from .172, .135 in the previous two seasons).

Whatever his issues are this season, the Nationals need to get Ross straightened out and sooner rather than later.

We talked about Ross struggling, the Nationals’ offese exploding and more on Nats Nightly: