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Ross shines, but defense and bullpen contribute to loss

Jul 21, 2015, 11:24 PM EDT

USA Today

Rookie right-hander Joe Ross had made spot starts for the Nationals before, but this was no ordinary outing. The 22-year-old starter came up to pitch in Stephen Strasburg’s place on Tuesday and faced the New York Mets, the second place team in the NL East. His counterpart? Reigning NL Rookie of the Year and 2015 All-Star Jacob deGrom.

Ross, as he has been in each of his four MLB starts so far, was excellent. His supporting cast, however, was not.

Ross threw 6 1/3 innings with two earned runs on four hits and no walks. He started the game by setting down the first nine batters he faced and left with a 2.70 ERA on the season. That is with 27 strikeouts and just two walks along the way in his 26 2/3 total innings.

Defensive mistakes and an unfortunate showing by the Nats’ bullpen told the story of this one, a 7-2 loss to the Mets, who are within striking distance at just two games back out of first. The Nats committed two errors, both that led to runs. They also saw catcher Wilson Ramos botch a throw attempt as Curtis Granderson stole second base in the fourth inning, a play that featured Ramos failing to get the ball out of his glove. Granderson would end up scoring New York’s first run.

The game started well and ended ugly for the Nats. But they can take solace from yet another impressive showing from Ross.

“It’s definitely an honor, being the guy for right now that they can call up and trust to try and win a game in such a big situation against the Mets,” Ross said. “I didn’t really know what to expect coming into this season, my first year with the Nationals. It was kind of whatever they had planned for me, go from there. I’ve been lucky to have a really good opportunity making four starts up here.”

The first error came in the top of the seventh after Ross allowed a leadoff single to Wilmer Flores. Kirk Nieuwenhuis smacked a high-bouncing grounder straight down the chalk line towards first base. Clint Robinson charged and tried to backhand the ball, but it got past him and slipped into right field. That put two runners in scoring position and both would score on an Eric Campbell single allowed by Aaron Barrett, who replaced Ross.

“The ball down the line to first, Clint decided to come get it and couldn’t get it,” Matt Williams said. “It’s not reviewable. I went out and asked the home plate umpire what he had, he said that he’s fighting Wilson to get a good look at it. The first base umpire’s got that call. He made the fair call. It’s not a reviewable play for us, so we can’t check it.”

Barrett said afterwards he thought Campbell just put a good swing on a well-executed pitch.

“Looking back on it, it was the right pitch location down and away. Tip your cap,” Barrett said. “He flipped it over Danny [Espionsa’s] head. It is what it is. You’re gonna beat sometimes. I wanted him to beat me with my best pitch.”

Campbell’s single gave the Mets a 3-2 lead and they added to that margin in the ninth against Tanner Roark. Roark allowed a leadoff single to Kevin Plawecki, who advanced all the way to third on a throwing error by left fielder Matt den Dekker. His throw to second bounced past Espinosa and all the way into foul territory.

Roark then unraveled by walking Michael Cuddyer and allowing singles to Granderson and Ruben Tejada. He gave up three runs and was charged with a fourth once rookie Abel de los Santos allowed another RBI on a groundout.

“The ball was up. I don’t think he was throwing it where he wanted to. A single is one thing, but we get a guy on third base there and he’s under a little bit of pressure. He just couldn’t throw it where he wanted to,” Williams said of Roark.

“[It’s] location. I think I’m trying to do too much right now. I feel like I’m underperforming and I need to pick it up,” Roark added. “I just need to do better, pitch better. It’s my job to get outs. Right now, it’s hard to come by. I have to work harder and get better.”

The Nats and Mets will continue their series on Wednesday in a rubber game that will pit Jordan Zimmermann (8-5, 3.27) against Noah Syndergaard (4-5, 3.05).


  1. Karl Kolchak - Jul 22, 2015 at 12:01 AM

    I know the Nats would prefer not to have Ross racking up MLB service time this season, but I don’t see how they can go forward with anyone other than him as the No. 5 starter until Strasburg returns. I love Roark–he’s been a great story–but he’s turning back into a pumpkin right before our eyes. Even before he started getting lit up his strikeout numbers had declined alarmingly this season.

    • adcwonk - Jul 22, 2015 at 10:32 AM

      Well, once he plays in one game, does it matter.

      The main thing is that they want to keep him at a max of 150 innings or so. (Which is why, in AAA, they’ve been limited all his starts to 5 innings).

      And so, I’m guessing, he’s #5 until Stras comes back (or 150 innings, whichever comes first).

  2. veejh - Jul 22, 2015 at 7:53 AM

    I guess all the defense got used up during the previous game.

  3. ArVAFan - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:01 AM

    Well, we’re going to today’s game. Let’s see which team shows up today.

    On Roark, he’s not going to come out and say “hey, I got overused, if you count warming up and not pitching.” Even if that’s what he should say, he won’t say it. One of the other pitchers mentioned that issue to me recently–sounds as if Matt still hasn’t learned his lessons on BP management. But he did pitch Storen on Monday, even though it was no longer a save situation (thanks, Desi!).

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:08 AM

      Interesting, so what do they do with him? DL? For decades there’s been bullpen arms that warm up and aren’t used. Roark hasn’t looked good even back in April. Even in his 2nd appearance.

      • rayvil01 - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:27 AM

        Roark has options, doesn’t he? The team is a position player light right now. When Rendon comes back Roark could benefit from a stint at Syracuse. Hey, it worked for Storen.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:32 AM

        Has to.

      • natsnatsnatswoo - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:57 AM

        It’s a mindset thing. As a starter, everything he did was directed to gearing it up for the start. As a reliever, that’s not been the case, especially with MW’s pattern of warming up relievers and then not using them. True, it’s been done for years, and pitchers who have always been relievers have gotten used to that and adapted to it, even though they may not like it. Roark being a starter is still learning how to deal with it. When he was starting he would throw bullpens in between starts that had a different point to them than gearing himself up to get guys out. Now when he pitches in the bullpen he doesn’t know if he’s necessarily going to have to get guys out that night or not, until MW makes the decision to bring him in. It’s always said that pitchers like defined roles, and that means more than just knowing they’ll pitch the seventh inning or the eighth inning or whatever. It also means they want to know that if they’re being warmed up they will be facing batters, so they can get their minds set accordingly. It’s like the change in mentality that has to happen for a batter to become a successful pinch hitter. You would think MW realizes this stuff, but apparently he doesn’t.

      • bowdenball - Jul 22, 2015 at 9:59 AM

        You’re acting like this is Roark’s first experience as a reliever. He has plenty of experience. He has 27 career major league relief appearances even though he’s only been in the big leagues since August 2013, and 67 career minor league relief appearances, including 22 in 2013.

        He also has pretty similar numbers as a starter and as a reliever. His ERA as a reliever is slightly lower, but his WHIP and K/BB ratio is a little higher. Taken together I’d say he’s been slightly better as a starter than as a reliever, but it’s close.

      • nats128 - Jul 22, 2015 at 10:20 AM

        bowdenball, was just saying the same above. In 2013 he broke in with the Nats as a reliever and did great. He did middle relief and mop-up and every time they called on him he shined. His ERA as a reliever in 2013 was 1.19. Then in September with the season all but over, Davey let him start games and he did great there to. In 2014 we know he was a effective starter.

        This year back to the bullpen and hes been real bad.

  4. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:02 AM

    Ross looked great once again. I thought he was good enough for a shutout.

    The Roark problem is worse than the Treinen problem. Watching Roark is like a BP session. For those who don’t get it, the #1 priority is getting a dominant arm for the back of the bullpen.

    Also, the eye test on Clint Robinson is that he is as bad as or worse than Adam Dunn. Even the 9th inning play where the den Dekker throw got by Espinosa, he didn’t get close to that ball and in fact Bryce somehow got to it at the same time. Again, he’s done an admirable job in there for RZim but his defense is poor. His lack of defense is what changed the course of the game. Also, he only has 4 HRs which is less than every current starter with at least 125 at-bats. Even Span has 5 HRs.

    • veejh - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:09 AM

      Should MW have left in Ross to get out of that 2nd and 3rd jam, probably. I saw lots of comments about Barrett’s pitch that gave up those 2 runs and I don’t think it was as bad as you all made it out to be. I was a slider low and away. It was in the zone, but is was at the bottom corner and the batter (don’t remember who it was) threw his bat down there and got it. Now, everything after that was pretty bad, but I don’t think that particular pitch was as bad as made out to be.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:18 AM

        Veejh, Barrett has done that before. Has to get it lower. The batter knew what he was getting. The batter was in swing mode. It got too much plate. Needed a K there.

      • veejh - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:22 AM

        pull up your pitch track picture thingy. I’d like to see the location.

    • rayvil01 - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:24 AM

      Clint is a poor man’s version of ALR. Same range but less pop in the bat and less picking ability. I grew used to having balls get between 1B and ALR going down into the corner. This spring with RZ it was like, “Wow! This is cool having a first baseman with some range.” PF is such a nasty condition. It takes 6 or more weeks of real rest to fix. And, that’s if you’re lucky. Hoping RZ is going to be lucky.

      Lucked into hearing Bob Carpenter doing an interview on Monday. FWIW He said RZ was pumping balls deep during BP. Bring him up.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:32 AM

        Defense matters but why isn’t TyMo getting starts in meantime. I expect he will today.

      • rayvil01 - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:48 AM

        TyMo doesn’t get enough field time. His defense is good. Phil Wood says repeatedly that TyMo is 30 HR man if he’s a regular. If that’s true we won’t see it in a Nats uni.

        I hope he starts today. Somehow we haven’t had to face this kid pitching for NY before.

    • jd - Jul 22, 2015 at 9:25 AM


      Moore’s offense just doesn’t play at 1st base on a daily basis. .220 .262 .379 vs. Robinson’s .275 .346 .413. and the number of at bats is in the same neighborhood and it’s not as if Moore is Anthony Rizzo as a defensive 1st baseman. Robinson probably cost us the game last night but sometimes you just have to hold your nose and accept the stench.

      BTW, Robinson’s offense has been quite a bit better than RZim’s this year, much to my surprise. Just saying.

      I would have stayed with Ross in the 7th with the way he was dealing. He was at 88 pitches and the way he was dealing I think he had more than an even chance to at least get out of that inning tied, having said that I also don’t think Barrett made a bad pitch to Campbell, it was down and had a nice downward break and as luck would have it a crappy hitter was able to get a base hit.

      Roark has been awful. Really hasn’t adapted to his role from spring training on, I wonder how much of it has to do with losing his starting role a bit unfairly. I always assumed that he would be back in the rotation in 2016, now I am not sure.

      • alexva6 - Jul 22, 2015 at 9:34 AM

        good points on Moore, Robinson and Ross.

        it may be time to accept that last year’s performance by Roark was a fluke. it happens

    • rayvil01 - Jul 22, 2015 at 9:44 AM

      Chelsea Janes just tweeted the lineup: Same as last night. No TyMo.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 22, 2015 at 10:09 AM

        Ok then. I see Ramos also. I don’t get it with a day game after a night game.

  5. natsnatsnatswoo - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:05 AM

    “They also saw catcher Wilson Ramos botch a throw attempt as Curtis Granderson stole second base in the fourth inning, a play that featured Ramos failing to get the ball out of his glove.”

    So when Ramos needs to get the ball out of his glove, he can’t do it. When Ramos needs to keep the ball in his glove, like when he takes the throw on a play at the plate, he can’t do it. Tell us again why Ramos is such a good catcher.

    • veejh - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:11 AM

      He’s not. He’s average best, right along with Lobaton.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:44 AM

      Worry about Caught Stealing percentage, not one play. It’s like sample sizes. Overall catcher ratings he’s #8 or #9 of all catchers depending on which site you go to.

      • jd - Jul 22, 2015 at 9:28 AM

        Ramos is much better than Lobaton and the numbers support that. Ghost is 100% right that catching is the least of our problems.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 22, 2015 at 9:35 AM

        I swear I think Ramos did something personally to a few people on here. On other sites they talk about his ability to control the game and keep the pace with the pitchers.

        2nd on the Nats in RBIs only behind Bryce with 40 RBIs.

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:37 AM

    Matt Williams is on MLB radio.

    • alexva6 - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:38 AM

      I’ll bet that’s compelling

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:46 AM

        They ask him some good questions.

      • alexva6 - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:56 AM

        it isn’t the questions I tune in for

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 22, 2015 at 9:07 AM

        It takes Q & A and there wasn’t good A to the Q.

      • alexva6 - Jul 22, 2015 at 9:19 AM


      • nats106 - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:52 AM

        haha. Must hear radio.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:56 AM

        In the end, he said nothing new. They asked good questions. Asked about Bryce and Greinke and even asked if he’s overused Ramos.

  7. nats106 - Jul 22, 2015 at 8:51 AM

    On the plus side, the injuries have allowed Den Dekker to get some PT in left. The guy hustles, looks to be a solid defender and brought a dirty uniform to LF all 5 games in this series. You gotta love guys who appear to really appreciate being in the majors.

    And Joe Ross is just simply good beyond his years and experience. I know we are only 2-3 on this homestand, but I really enjoyed seeing some great pitching all these games, especially the Sunday showdown.

    • jd - Jul 22, 2015 at 9:31 AM

      DenDekker is just not a major league caliber hitter.

      Ross is definitely good enough to stay in the rotation but I think innings limits will stop him from helping the team in September and beyond.

  8. zmunchkin - Jul 22, 2015 at 9:41 AM

    Robinson’s defense (actually lack there-of) is just one reason why we need RZ back as soon as he is ready to play. He can finalize his work on his timing for ABs while starting for the Nats.

    It is the old debate of offense vs. defense. IMO RZ being able to prevent hits and baserunners is worth having him in the lineup. Every baserunner he prevents can be viewed as an offset to a hit he does not get.

  9. rlndtln - Jul 22, 2015 at 9:49 AM

    The problem we have is getting our players on the field and improving the bullpen.It is that simple.We have the best team in MLB on paper but unfortunately we never get them together on the field.All 8 regulars are not going to have career years in the same year.With all the injuries and Ramos and Desi having off years we are still near the top in runs.The scoring will be cured if we get the guys back.The bullpen needs 2 capable experience relievers.Prospects will get you that in a trade.

  10. Theophilus T.S. - Jul 22, 2015 at 9:56 AM

    Roark apparently isn’t cut out to be a reliever. He’s a five-pitch pitcher who thrives on control. In a relief situation, more than three pitches are superfluous — there’s no occasion to mix them up, and you don’t change your strategy for a particular hitter in the middle of an AB, And if the command isn’t there, there’s no latitude to work things out over two or three innings. I think (and I hope, because next season he’ll probably have to start) the issue boils down having to extemporize every time he comes into the game rather than work from a script.

    Treinen has been disappointing. Barrett is supposed to be the guy who can get one guy, a strike out w/ his slider or a ground ball with his sinker, but can’t do it consistently. He came off the DL with two good outings and then blew it last night without very much resistance. His “tip your hat” comment was entirely too flip That pitch was very hittable and well-struck — no excuses. Carpenter’s trip to the DL was very inopportune as he would have been a key figure in either or both of the last two games.

    • nats128 - Jul 22, 2015 at 10:17 AM

      Isnt Roark the same guy who thrived in the bullpen in 2013 to get recognized by the Nats and when the season was gone in September 2013, Davey gave him starts and he did well. Yes, thats him. The memories are short here but I guess the new answer is Davey handled him better.





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