Joe Ross pitches a 5 1/3 one-hit shutout; Bullpen perfect! Big City provides the Big wood!

Photo by Sol Tucker for TalkNats

The Nationals pitchers threw a combined one-hit shutout led by starter Joe Ross and the offense was led by Matt Adams. The bullpen threw 3 2/3 perfect innings, but Roenis Elias in his Nats debut exited with an apparent hamstring injury that in the postgame was described as a cramp, and it happened when he was asked to bat. In other news, Howie Kendrick was scratched in the pre-game due to a leg cramp. More will be known tomorrow on the condition of both players. The Nats won 3-0, with the offense provided by Matt Adams who hit a 2-run double with 2 outs, and Juan Soto hit an add-on home run. Adams 2-runs broke up the 0-0 tie in the 6th inning and is all the Nats needed to notch the W. The Nats defense was excellent in this pitcher’s duel in a game that the Nats hung the first loss of the season on rookie Alex Young of the Diamondbacks who was also pitching well until Adams got him in a lefty-lefty matchup. The D’Backs intentionally walked Brian Dozier in front of Adams just to try to victimize Adams who was a late entry into the lineup to replace Kendrick!

On paper, this game looked like a Nats loss and a game that should not have been played with Joe Ross and his 9.85 ERA starting against a Diamondbacks pitcher with an ERA in the 2’s. This is why you play the games. Joe Ross bent but did not break and gave up five walks, and he made key pitches when he needed it. Ross spun a sinker to get a doubleplay when he needed it and at another point he also saved himself with a slick fielding play on a swinging bunt with two runners on-base and two outs.

We spoke in the pre-game about Joe Ross needing to “ditch” that straight four-seam fastball that has caused him trouble due to location issues in previous appearances, and those pitches were being hit hard and for home runs before. We talked about the need to either insert a cutter into his repertoire or going back to his sinker as fans had lost patience watching — that — version of Ross who had Tommy John surgery in 2017. This Ross showed up tonight with a different look. Of his 87 pitches in this outing, he threw 41 sinkers, and only 19 four-seamers plus 15 sliders that got the swing and miss that Ross needed in some full-counts to rack up three timely strikeouts. “Joe Cool” only threw four changeups which were not as crisp as his previous outing because Ross threw that slurvy thing as his lowest velo on the night averaging 82.4 mph that gave him another different look and kept batters off-balance.

“I didn’t think I was missing [the zone] by much,” Ross said. “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.”

Whoever THIS Joe Ross was — bottle him up, and credit to the brains who concocted this formula and for Ross who executed. At one point in the third inning, Ross had two runners on-base via walks and looked to be in trouble as his pitching coach Paul Menhart came out to talk to him. From that point on, Ross rolled and did not walk another batter the rest of the way. Also credit for pulling Ross in the sixth inning at a manageable pitch count and a guaranteed shutout.

For the 20-year-old Nats slugger Juan Soto, he made more history tonight with his solo home run to take sole possession of third place for most home runs before turning 21. Soto is at 43 bombs only trailing Tony Conigliaro (56) and Hall-of-Famer Mel Ott at 61 taters. On top of that, Soto more importantly has RBIs now in seven consecutive games.

Nats fans got to see Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland dominate on the mound in their Nats debuts, and Fernando Rodney and Sean Doolittle closed out the game. Unfortunately Elias tried to leg-out an infield single and hurt himself because he batted in a game where Davey Martinez wanted him to pitch in the following inning, but to the manager’s credit he was heard yelling to Elias in Spanish to take it easy as Elias looked to be in swing-mode and connected on a slow grounder and pulled up lame as he tried to get that single. It was all cool — until it was not.

“He was told not to swing, about as many times as I could tell him, in Spanish and English,” Martinez said. “But he’s competitive, you know? He said sorry to me. But I told him: ‘It’s part of the game. You’ll be fine, so don’t worry about. But next time, you listen. Just listen. You’re not here to hit, you’re here to pitch.’”

They are calling Elias’ injury a cramp, and we have to hope that was it. To see Elias and Strickland in big situations on the mound and execute was great to see.

“It’s nice to have those guys that have actually pitched in the back of the bullpen, close games so we can do different things,” Martinez said.

It’s nice to pull a starter mid-inning with a two-run lead and have the confidence to close-out 3 2/3 innings with no drama. The Nats missed a combined no-hitter by an inch or two.

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