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Washington Nationals’ Joe Ross wraps up return from Tommy John, looks to 2019...

Joe Ross looked sharp early, but gave up three home runs on Friday night in Coors Field in what ended up a 5-2 loss to the Rockies.

Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies Photo by Joe Mahoney/Getty Images

In his second start back after over a year of rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Joe Ross gave up eight hits and four runs, three earned, in six innings of work on the mound in what ended up a 4-2 loss to the New York Mets in the nation’s capital.

The four runs he allowed came in over his first three innings of work against the Mets, but Ross settled in with three scoreless to wrap up a solid start, especially for the second outing after a long layoff.

“We really like the way Joe has come back from Tommy John,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this week. “I look past the performance and look at the stuff, and how he’s progressed in his rehabilitation, and he’s 92 to 96 [mph] with his sinker, his slider has got some snap to it at 86-88, and he’s really developed a changeup that we think is going to be a weapon in the future.”

Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters after the game against the Mets that Ross started to get the ball down in the zone late in the outing and that made a difference.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Colorado Rockies Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

“He’s more effective when he’s down,” the Nats’ skipper explained, “the ball moves a little bit more, his changeup is better, his slider’s better, and he was able to do that and really settled down and pitched well.”

Ross made his third start back on Friday night in Denver, Colorado’s Coors Field, holding the Rockies scoreless through two innings, but then Charlie Blackmon homered in the third and Ian Desmond and Chris Iannetta hit back-to-back home runs in the the fifth, with Desmond’s blast a two-run shot that made it 3-2 before Iannetta added to the lead, 4-2, in what ended up being a 5-2 loss for the Nationals.

Blackmon hit a 1-2 slider off of the plate inside, Desmond hit a high 91 mph fastball out the other way, and Iannetta crushed a 92 mph 0-1 sinker knee-high inside.

After the back-to-back home runs, Ross retired the next three batters to finish up the fifth, then he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the top of the sixth.

Joe Ross’s Line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 3 HRs, 81 P, 54 S, 5/3 GO/FO.

“He was actually pretty good,” Martinez told reporters after the loss.

“That one inning he gave up those runs he just got the ball up, didn’t get the ball down, but he did well, under conditions and he went out there and battled and he did really well. What I liked the most about him, after he gave up those runs, he got three outs, and I really, really, really, really — I told him, I said, ‘Hey, the fact that you went out there and got us three outs like that,’ I said, ‘That’s pretty impressive.’ So, I know he’s going to be good, he’s going to be really good. He’s battled back from Tommy John and this is just kind of growing pains, getting back in the swing of things, and next year he’s going to help us win a lot of games.”

“We’re going to have to control his innings,” Rizzo said earlier this week, “he’ll be in Year 1 post-Tommy John protocol as we have here with the Nationals, but we’re looking for big things from Joe and hopefully we can manage those innings correctly and he can really be a factor for us.”

Martinez was asked last night for his takeaway from the three starts Ross made in the big leagues.

“For me, obviously he’s got to get the ball down,” Martinez said, “... he’s got to be more consistent and get ahead of hitters. His slider, so far, has come and gone, and he’s got a really good one. When he’s on his slider is really good. And he threw a couple today that were really good, and he’s just got to get that back and be consistent with it.”

“I mean, I’ve got a lot of things to work on,” Ross told reporters, “... but I’d say the biggest thing is just being healthy, feeling good, at least being on the mound is the biggest thing for me, but I’ve got a lot of stuff to work on, work on the slider, obviously it hasn’t really been there for me, command and everything, just honestly getting the stamina up so I can go deeper into the game, but I mean for now just happy that I feel healthy and feel strong, but I’ve kind of just got to take it one step at a time.”