Joe Ross has averaged 93.1 MPH with his sinker this season, but in Sunday’s series finale with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Washington Nationals’ starter was sitting at 95.2, and up to 97.2 (harder than any sinker Ross has thrown since back in 2015 according to Fangraphs), as he struck out six of the first 11 batters he faced over three scoreless on the 4th of July in the nation’s capital.
Given a 1-0 lead to work with after three, Ross came back out and gave up a leadoff homer on a 95 MPH 1-1 sinker that tailed away, across the plate from where catcher Tres Barrera’s target was set up, and Matt Beaty crushed it, hitting a 401 foot homer into the seats out in left-center field.
The solo shot was the 15th in 84 2⁄3 IP for Ross this season (1.59 HR/9 to that point), and the eighth solo homer off him on the year, as he’s managed to limit the damage while giving up more home runs than he did in his last full season on the mound in 2019 (seven over 64 IP, or 0.98 HR/9).
Ross was up to 10 Ks from 24 batters he faced and 88 pitches overall after he struck two out in an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth inning, his season-high in strikeouts, and double digits in Ks for the first time since June of 2017.
Joe Ross, Filthy 85mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/plFLox9Ggt— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 4, 2021
Ross returned to the mound in the top of the seventh, and gave up a double into the right-center gap on a 1-1 changeup to Gavin Lux, who scored one out later on an Albert Pujols’ single, 2-1. Pujols’s pinch runner, pitcher Tony Gonsolin, scored on two-out double by Max Muncy, after Brad Hand took over on the mound...
Joe Ross’s Line: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 11 Ks, 1 HR, 101 P, 70 S, 4/5 GO/FO.
Ross took the loss in the 5-1 game, which gave the Dodgers a sweep of the four-game set in Nationals Park.
Joe Ross, Nasty 83mph Slider.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 4, 2021
10th K. pic.twitter.com/KOetLxY1vt
Ross finished the outing with 13 swinging strikes overall, four each with his sinker and slider, and five with his four-seam fastball, and he got 25 called strikes on the day, 17 with the two-seamer, five with his slider and three with the four-seamer. The key to his success, and all of the strikeouts?
“For the most part fastball command,” Ross said, “... being able to command the two-seam, been using the four-seam a lot recently, and then later on throwing the breaking ball off of that, threw a couple of changeups, but I think just overall the two-seam command and just trying to keep it close to some of those guys, they don’t really like the ball up and in, so just kind of staying aggressive and trying to work quick.”
As for the uptick in velocity, Ross said he was a little more amped up than usual.
“I just think I was a little more amped up than usual I’ve been feeling pretty good the last couple game, been 95-96-ish, so I think that probably took it over the top there, but I felt good, and felt like I was throwing the ball well.”
Getting consistent starts in the majors, Ross said, has helped him iron out his mechanics.
“I mean, definitely helps being on every fifth day with no skips, and things like that,” he said.
“But overall physically I feel really good, feel like my mechanics are clean, and not like searching really for one specific move in my delivery, out of the stretch and out of the wind-up everything feels pretty good, so just kind of going out there and competing and not really thinking about anything else besides that.”