In spite of the fact that Joe Ross gave up nine hits and four runs (two earned) in six innings against the New York Mets, Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker liked what he saw from the sinker-balling right-hander.
“He kept his ball down most of the time,” Baker said. “He had pretty good command.
“His changeup is getting better, because the speed differential is a lot better, so he’s been working on that to get left-handers out, and right-handers.”
It was the third loss in six starts since Ross returned to the majors following a stint at Triple-A after he struggled in his first three starts in the majors this season in April.
Over that six-start stretch since he returned, the 24-year-old righty had a 5.29 ERA and a .324/.360/.528 line against in 34 innings pitched before Saturday’s start.
Baker told reporters before the game that he gave Ross instructions on what to work on as he prepared for his latest outing.
“I asked him to work on keeping the ball down in the bullpen and asked him to work on different grips or whatever feels comfortable for him on his changeup,” Baker said.
“We all need a third pitch, big time. There are very few people who only need two and most of them are relievers, so, yeah, that third pitch is going to be big and who knows, he might come up with an alternate pitch from there, because once you find something it’s like, “Oh, let me try this,’ and then you try that and next thing you know everything comes together.”
Ross worked into and out of trouble early Saturday afternoon in his second career start against the Cincinnati Reds.
He worked around a one-out single and two-out walk in the Reds’ half of the first, and stranded two after back-to-back, one-out singles in the top of the second.
By the time he took the mound in the third, Ross had an eight-run lead to work with, and he retired the Reds in order in a 12-pitch frame that left him at 47 pitches.
A 17-pitch fourth left Ross at 64 pitches, and after the Nationals added four in the bottom of the fourth, he had a 12-0 lead.
Ross got a 4-6-3 double play out of Scooter Gennett to escape a first-and-third, one-out jam in a 16-pitch fifth that left him at 80 pitches.
After the Nats added to their lead in the bottom of the inning, his bid for a shutout ended on an 0-1 slider to Patrick Kivlehan that sailed out to left, 13-1.
He came back out for a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh that left him at 103 pitches overall.
Joe Ross’s Line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HR, 103 P, 74 S, 6/3 GO/FO.
Ross threw 50 sinkers, 36 for strikes (72%), generating 26 swings and four swinging strikes, mixed in six four-seam fastballs according to Brooksbaseball.net, threw 31 sliders, 21 for strikes (67.7%), and 16 changeups, 12 for strikes (75%), three of them put in play, none for hits, and nine for strikes not put in play.
“Joe threw a good game,” Baker said after the outing.
“He threw some outstanding changeups and he threw a good game, because a lot of times, I’ll go to the plate to make pitching changes or whatever and I’ll ask the umpire, ‘Hey, how’s he throwing?’ and he said, ‘He’s throwing good, he’s throwing very well.’ So that’s a good sign for him and us.”
With the win, Ross improved to (4-3) on the season, with a 5.40 ERA, 4.74 FIP, 12 walks (1.91 BB/9) and 52 Ks (8.26 K/9) in 56 2⁄3 IP. With 13 runs of support, the right-hander now has an average of 8.60 runs of support per start, which, if he had enough innings to qualify for the major league leaderboard, would lead all NL pitchers.