Joe Ross gave up six hits total, two of them home runs, in his start against New York’s Mets in Washington, D.C. last weekend, but three of the hits, and both of the homers, were hit by Francisco Lindor, who drove in all five runs Ross surrendered in five innings of work on the mound in the nation’s capital.
“Yeah, I just got beat by one guy,” Ross lamented in his post game Zoom call with reporters.
Looking at what was different between that start, and his previous outing, in which Ross put up eight scoreless against the San Francisco Giants, the right-hander said it came down to command.
“Maybe just command in certain situations,” he qualified, “runners on, I was behind in the count a little bit a few times.
“I feel like I just wasn’t as sharp today.”
Davey Martinez, who tends to go back and watch all the Nationals’ games once he goes home each night, said he did take a second look at Ross’s outing to see if it was actually Lindor spoiling an otherwise solid start.
“I mean, to me that was the key factor for him,” Martinez said. “He got beat by one guy. His stuff was good. And going into this week, we talked about not trying to change anything, control the game, control the strike zone, and mix your pitches in, and if he does that today, we’ll be in good shape. Like I said, he had one guy that had his number five days ago, so hopefully tonight he comes back and shakes that one off, and comes back today and gives us the innings and the outs that we need.”
The skipper said that the fact that Ross hadn’t walked anyone in either of his previous two starts was a good sign that what he was doing was working (just not against Lindor).
“He’s just — like I said, we talked a lot and [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey has been pounding him about just pounding the strike zone and using your defense,” Martinez said, “... and our pitchers for the most part have been doing that, they really have. That’s one of our focuses as an organization, now is to throw strikes and let your defense play behind you.”
Going up against the Marlins on Thursday night, Ross walked two batters, and gave up six hits, but completed seven scoreless on 101 pitches, 68 strikes, in what ended up a 7-3 win.
His manager talked after the game about what the sinker-balling right-hander needs to do in order to consistently give the Nationals what they need.
“He comes out and really attacks the strike zone, pitches with conviction, we need to get him — within his next start, which will be in five days, in-between Hickey will talk to him about exactly what he’s done, they’ll watch video, and not be afraid to attack the strike zone,” he explained.
“He did that tonight, made some good pitches tonight. And we need to get him consistent with that, every five days. In order to be a starter here, that’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to throw the ball over the plate, you can’t walk guys, you’ve got to make your pitches, and he did well tonight, so we’ll get him the rest he needs here in the next five days, and he’ll come back and hopefully give us another strong performance.”
Ross talked in his own post game Zoom call about what he needs to do to be consistent and efficient each time his turn in the rotation comes around.
“I think just staying aggressive and not being too fine,” Ross said.
“But with throwing mostly two-seamers and moving the ball, having them put the ball in play, not trying to be too perfect, spot up, there’s definitely times where I’m going for the strikeout looking or something like that with two strikes, but overall I’d just say keeping that ball in the zone and kind of moving around, messing with timing, and letting our guys in the field do their job. It’s been working out so far.”