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Washington Nationals’ Joe Ross has one to throw away after strong start to 2021...

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Joe Ross didn’t have it last night, and he got hit hard, giving up 10 runs in 4 1⁄3 IP.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Ross held the Los Angeles Dodgers off the board over five innings of work in his 2021 debut, and he followed up on that outing in LA with six scoreless against St. Louis on the road in Busch Stadium.

“It feels good,” Ross said of his early-season results after he opted out of 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign.

“Obviously, coming back and having a good start to the season in general, always a good feeling to start strong.”

“He pounded the strike zone,” manager Davey Martinez said after Ross faced the Cardinals in Missouri.

“His sinker was really, really good today, but when he throws strikes he’s going to be good.

“When he falls behind things get a little crazy for him, when he’s pounding that strike zone and ahead of hitters, he’s really good.”

Martinez talked before the second start in a week against the Cardinals in the series opener of their three-game set in D.C. about the confidence he’s seen from the 27-year-old over his eleven scoreless innings before last night.

“So, two things that I noticed since Spring Training,” Martinez said, “... as he progressed through Spring Training; one was his deception.

“His deception is back. He toyed around with different things because of Tommy John surgery, now he’s back to where — like I said — where we thought he should be pre-surgery.

“With that being said, his slider is that [much] more effective because of his deception, and he’s able to get a little bit more extended, where he trusts it a little bit more. So, like I said, he’s in a good spot. He feels good. he’s not worried about anything, just going out there and making pitches and doing a good job doing it.”

Ross’s scoreless inning streak ended in the second, when Paul DeJong hit a 1-0 sinker off of the left field foul pole for a two-out solo shot, and Tommy Edman (on a 3-0 sinker) and Paul Goldschmidt (on a 1-2 changeup) hit two-run and solo home runs, respectively, in back-to-back at bats in the third as the Cardinals jumped up to a 4-0 lead.

Ross hit the first batter in the Cards’ fourth, walked the second, and gave up an RBI single to center (by Matt Carpenter) as the visiting team added to its lead, 5-0, and a bunt by pitcher Jack Flaherty with runners on the corners brought in another run, 6-0, before Ross escaped a 28-pitch frame which left him at 74 total after four.

Ross returned to the mound in the fifth inning and gave up back-to-back hits, before a one-out intentional walk loaded the bases, and a grand slam by DeJong, whose second blast of the game and fifth of the season, made it a 10-2 game in the Cardinals’ favor in what ended up a 12-5 game.

Joe Ross’s Line: 4.1 IP, 9 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 4 HRs, 85 P, 57 S, 4/0 GO/FO.

“The ball just got up on him,” Martinez said after the Nationals’ loss. “He came out the first inning and he was lights out. I thought, ‘Man, this is going to be a good day,’ and then all of a sudden the ball — he just got up, the ball got flat on him. Just a tough day for him.

“Hopefully he learned something today, he bounces back, cause we need him. But he’s throwing the ball well. He’s throwing the ball well.

“Like I said, he came out today and he looked fantastic, just the ball got up on him.”

“I just wasn’t really executing my pitches,” Ross said.

“Leaving the fastball up and I was getting hit hard, making mistakes. Just got to be better with location and work ahead and stay ahead.”

He did retire the first five batters he faced, striking out two, but things went wrong quickly in the second and didn’t get better. What changed?

“I don’t know if anything changed,” Ross said.

“I think I probably got away with a few missed pitches early on. But like I said, I was just not really executing pitches where I wanted to, and they made me pay for it, and falling behind in the count and kind of having some longer ABs doesn’t help. So, just wasn’t my best stuff today.”