Joe Ross took the mound tonight with a streak of 11 1⁄3 scoreless innings going over his last two starts, which saw the 26-year-old righty throw 5 1⁄3 scoreless against Arizona’s D-backs in Chase Field, and six scoreless against the San Francisco Giants in Oracle Park.
Davey Martinez told Ross after the outing against the Giants that he liked what he saw from his starter.
“I told him,” Martinez said, “I said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’ I mean his two-seamer is working, he’s throwing his four-seamer on occasion, his changeup was really good today, so I really liked what he did.”
Martinez explained that a mechanical tweak Ross made under the supervision of the Nats’ staff has really helped with his sinker.
“We wanted to keep him closed on the front side, and he’s been doing that, and the ball is coming out really nice.”
The effect of the changes?
“We get him to sink the ball a little bit more,” Martinez said, “... keep the ball down a little bit more, get behind, use his legs a little bit more.”
“I think that you’re seeing a pitcher in transition,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last week, when asked about Ross turning things around after returning from Tommy John surgery last season and struggling in a bullpen role early this year.
“A guy, again, coming off Tommy John surgery. It takes these guys a little bit longer to get the command and the location of their stuff.”
“[Nats’ pitching coach Paul Menhart] and Joe have worked really, really hard the last month or so about tweaking Joe’s delivery. Obviously he’s a hard, sinking fastball/slider type of starting pitcher and did some tweaks in his delivery, kind of changed a little bit of his presentation on the mound, and where he stands on the rubber, and gotten him to get the ball in the lower part of the strike zone, which is his bread and butter.”
“I think you’ve seen kind of the byproduct of better mechanics and better location on some really, really good stuff,” Rizzo added.
Whatever they did, it’s working.
Ross took the mound against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday in the nation’s capital and tossed six scoreless frames on 82 pitches, setting a new mark for consecutive scoreless innings by a Nationals’ pitcher this season before finally giving up a run on back-to-back two-out hits in the top of the seventh.
Joe Ross’s Line: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 92 P, 57 S, 11/3 GO/FO.
“What a great performance today,” Ross’s manager said after the Nationals’ 3-1 win over the Reds.
“We let him go — I know he had 18 or 19 shutout innings there going, but he was throwing the ball good, and I thought that was enough for him, he had 90+ pitches, so he’s doing well.”
What stood out for Martinez from Ross’s outing?
“Attacking the strike zone, keeping the ball down, using his changeup, his curveball, slider, they were all effective today,” he said.
Martinez said what he’s seeing from Ross now is a pitcher who’s as good as he was before having surgery on his elbow.
“When I was on the other side watching Joe pitch, he’s throwing the ball right now about as good as I’ve seen him from the other side. His two-seamer is sinking really well. He throws his four-seamer up, with two strikes, which is unbelievable. His curveball has been very, very effective, and he can throw it for a strike now, he gets a lot of chase. You want to call it a slider, I think of it more as a cutter, cause it’s about 89-90, makes it really effective as well.”
Joe Ross, Disgusting 95mph Sinker.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 14, 2019
H/T @JDaniel2033 pic.twitter.com/DEnVj8r3EI
Ross has now allowed just one earned run in his last three starts and 18 IP (0.50 ERA). What does he think has been going right in his last three outings?
“I’ve been working with Paul Menhart a lot,” Ross told MASN’s Dan Kolko and Bo Porter after the game, “... about kind of just picking up the pace of my delivery and getting my knee up, and it’s kind of helped overall with, I guess, repeating my delivery, and the late action on my pitches, especially my sinker, so I think that coming together, staying down in the zone, and then throwing my offspeed off of that.
“It’s kind of all come together the last three games, so I’m trying to keep it rolling and kind of keep us afloat I guess while Max [Scherzer] is hopefully coming back soon.”