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Joe Ross struggles in Nationals’ 5-3 loss to the Padres; Chris Speier on what went wrong for Ross...

Joe Ross didn’t make it through the fifth inning in the Nationals’ 5-3 loss to the Padres...

San Diego Padres v Washington Nationals Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

The enthusiasm which followed Joe Ross’s return to the Nationals’ rotation last week was tempered somewhat by his outing on Sunday in Washington’s 5-3 loss to the San Diego Padres.

The problems which preceded his trip to Triple-A Syracuse last month were present again as Ross struggled with command of his sinker and slider, ran out of gas in the fifth inning, and had his velocity fall off again late in his outing.

Nationals’ bench coach/fill-in skipper Chris Speier was asked if it was a matter of Ross dropping his arm slot again, as he had been when he struggled earlier this season, but he said it was more about Ross’s command, telling reporters after the right-hander gave up 12 hits to the 25 batters he faced, and five earned runs over four-plus innings, that it was simple, really.

“I just think it was command of his slider,” Speier explained. “He just left some pitches out over the middle of the plate and didn’t have the sharpness that he had the last time.”

Was the drop in velocity a concern? “I’m sure it is,” Speier said.

“Again, I think he was trying to get that sense for his breaking ball, but yeah, we did notice that it dropped again.”

Ross gave up a two-out walk to Wil Myers in the first, and a two-run home run by Ryan Schimpf in the at bat that followed, 2-0.

Chase d’Arnaud doubled in the second and came around to score on an RBI single by the opposing pitcher, Jhoulys Chacin, but Ross worked out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam later in the second and stranded two runners in the fourth, extending his start.

Three straight hits, the third a two-run single in the fifth, put the Padres up 5-2 and ended Ross’s outing after 85 pitches.

Ross told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr, that, “... it was just kind of one of those games where stuff just wasn’t all the way there.”

“There [were] times where we were kind of looking and thinking, ‘How much more can he give us?’ and he kept giving us that extra, which was big for us,” Speier said.

“We’ve got a long stretch here and the last thing we want to do is blow up our bullpen. He battled for the five innings he was out there.”

“I thought we had good at bats on him from really the get-go,” Padres’ skipper Andy Green told reporters after the win.

“I thought there was battling, everybody — we had two guys out really quick, the Wil Myers’ walk in the first inning was a battle walk, we haven’t had a ton of those like that, where you’re fouling some pitches off, you end up taking ball four outside and then it wears a pitcher down, and he ends up making a mistake with a slider to Schimpf and that kind of gets us off and going in the right direction.

“I felt like the at bats, for the most part, were good from the beginning, we did square him up a little bit more at the very end, but I felt like we did a good job with him.”

It didn’t help that Nats’ hitters went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position and nine left on base overall, getting just one run out of a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity in the first, stranding two in the second, one in the third, another in the fourth, and the fifth, and two more in the seventh.

“That’s baseball,” Speier said. “Those are situations that come up and the times that you do it, those are the times that you win.

“You leave those men on third base or runners in scoring position, you don’t get them in, those usually come back to haunt you.”