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Joe Ross battles early command issues in one-hit outing in Nationals’ 3-0 win over Diamondbacks

It didn’t start particularly well for Joe Ross, who walked five of the first eleven batters he faced, but he ended up giving up just one hit in 5 1⁄3 IP.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

In his one start this season, after the Nationals tried him as a reliever earlier this year, Joe Ross gave up eight hits, two walks, and three earned runs in a 7-1 loss in Atlanta, and the right-hander struggled coming in after an opener in Washington last week, allowing nine hits, two walks, and seven runs, (six of them earned), when he came on in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the nation’s capital.

“I really think for Joe he needs to identify whether he wants to be a two-seamer or a four-seam guy,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters after a 9-3 loss to LA.

“I think he tried to do both today,” Martinez said.

“We have to figure out what’s going to be best for him. He pitched. He threw some pretty good pitches at times, and then sometimes he just left the ball elevated, so we’ve just got to go back and figure it out.”

His first full season back following Tommy John surgery has not gone well, and Ross said that though he felt good against the Dodgers, the results obviously weren’t what he had hoped they would be.

“I felt good physically but just leaving the ball over the plate, up in the zone, and they made me pay for it,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr.

“Up in the zone is not where you want to be, especially with these guys.”

Given another opportunity last night in the series opener with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the 26-year-old starter struggled with his command early in Chase Field, walking five of the first 11 D-backs’ batters he faced, but he got a 5-4-3 double play after back-to-back one-out free passes in the second, and picked up a swinging K and made a nice barehand play after he’d given up back-to-back, one-out walks again in the third.

Ross retired the side in order in an 11-pitch fourth that left him at 70 pitches total, with the five walks allowed, but no hits surrendered.

An infield single by the opposing pitcher ended Ross’s nascent no-hit bid in the fifth, but he worked around it for another scoreless inning of work, and recorded one out in the sixth, at which point Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez went to the pen.

Joe Ross’s Line: 5.1 IP, 1 H 0 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 3 Ks, 87 P, 48 S, 8/3 GO/FO.

Roenis Elías, Hunter Strickland, Fernando Rodney, and Sean Doolittle followed Ross on the mound, combining for a one-hit shutout in what ended up a 3-0 win.

Ross, and catcher Yan Gomes, stuck with the sinker/two-seamer, throwing it a total of 41 times overall, with 19 four-seamers, 15 sliders, eight curves, and four changeups.

Outside of the walks, it was a much better outing for Ross, who was happy with the results overall, while acknowledging the command issues.

“I didn’t think I was missing by much,” Ross said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

“Back-to-back walks in the third, or whatever inning that was. It seemed like every inning I walked the second batter, which is not ideal. But I guess better than the first batter. Small misses, but I made the adjustment to get back in the zone after that.”

“He fell behind a lot, but when he was able to throw strikes, he was effective,” Martinez said, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jake Rill.

“We talked after his last outing about his two-seamer and knowing when to throw his four-seamer, and he did that really well today. And then he started throwing his breaking balls a lot better.”

After saying recently that either Ross or Erick Fedde needed to step up, with Austin Voth and Jeremy Hellickson working back from injuries, and the fifth spot in the Nats’ rotation one of the Nationals’ main issues in recent weeks, Ross’s manager liked what he saw.

“I told him,” Martinez said after the game, “I said, ‘You pitched great. If you can pitch like that, compete, keep us in ballgames, that’s what we need.’”