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Joe Ross struggles early, settles in, Nationals drop 5-3 decision to Braves...

Joe Ross put the Nationals in an early hole they never quite got out of in last night’s 5-3 loss to the Braves...

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Joe Ross tossed four scoreless against the Cincinnati Reds last week in the nation’s capital, but rain ended his outing when the game was postponed at that point and finished up the next day.

Ross’s lack of a decision extended a winless month of May in which the starter had put up a 5.73 ERA, 12 walks, 22 Ks, and a .270/.365/.427 line against in five starts and 22 innings.

“He threw the ball well,” manager Davey Martinez said after Ross’s outing. “His slider was really sharp today, he had a lot of tilt on his slider today, but he threw the ball really well.”

“It felt really good,” Ross told reporters in a post game Zoom call. “I felt like I was a little more back on track than the last couple games, and fastball felt good, had some good sliders, only threw a couple changeups, but some of them I felt pretty good about.

“So it is what it is, but overall I felt good about how I threw the ball.”

Back on the mound five days later, Ross went up against the Atlanta Braves last night, after Washington’s NL East rivals put up five hits and two runs on him in 5 23 IP in Nationals Park back on May 4th.

Ross gave up two hits, three walks, and three runs in a 32-pitch first inning, then gave up a solo home run by Ronald Acuña, Jr. in the second that put the right-hander in a 4-0 hole.

He drove in a run as part of a three-run fourth, to make it a one-run game, and retired the side in order in the bottom of the fourth, and again in the fifth, for 11-straight outs overall following Acuña, Jr.’s second inning blast.

With a runner on third and one out in the top of the sixth, and the Nationals down by a run, they hit for Ross when his spot came up... but didn’t score. It ended up a 5-3 loss.

Joe Ross’s Line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 87 P, 56 S, 3/4 GO/FO.

“Once again, we got to get out of that first inning. First inning is hurting us. Joe gave up one hard hit ball, but the walks,” Martinez said after the club’s fifth straight loss.

“The walks, a bloop hit, a check swing by Acuña, but then [Ross] settles down and he gives you good innings after that. He threw the ball well after that, so — we got to come out — like I said, we got to start coming out and trying to win that first inning. And I talk about it all the time. Try to score first, that’s the key for us.”

“I felt fine in the first,” Ross said in his own post game Zoom call. “Just maybe rushing a little bit, timing was off a little bit. So, you know, I had some pretty soft base hits and then a couple walks, I was just trying to make some good pitches there with runners on base and then just settled down from there.”

“It’s kind of tough when you’re working out of a jam with runners on base consistently for one long inning,” Ross said of his ability to reset after the first and finish strong, “and then got to go out and start fresh in the second and kind of kept it rolling from there.”

When he says he was rushing a little bit early? What’s that mean, exactly?

“I think he was just coming out, he was leading with his head a little bit more than usual.

“He was trying to get a little bit more on his fastball.

“[Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey went out there and talked to him, kind of settled him down a little bit and he started getting behind his pitches a little better and was able to get him back in the strike zone, and then after the first inning he was really good. Real good. Now we just got to get him out there and get him under control that first couple innings and then go from there.”

“Most of the time I feel like just a lot of adrenaline,” Ross said of his early-inning issues. “It tends to be the first inning, just kind of amped up to be out there on the mound. And then kind of settling in from there. But I feel like it never tends to be an issue late in the game, I feel like by then you’re settled in you kind of have your rhythm and tempo and whatnot, but yeah, I think just a little excitement. Someone mentioned to me during the game this is our first real full crowd, which I really didn’t think about until after I was already out, but I think just that excitement of the first inning and kind of getting the game going.”