Aug 2, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT
For the second straight night, the Nationals fell to the division rival New York Mets by just one run thanks to mistakes made late in the game by their bullpen. This time it was Mets first baseman Lucas Duda who had the big swing and Nats reliever Matt Thornton who gave up the decisive score.
The Nationals now lead by just one game in the NL East and that advantage could disappear on Sunday when the Mets will aim for the series sweep. Jordan Zimmermann (8-6, 3.36) and Noah Syndergaard (5-5, 2.70) will be the starters in what is about as big a game as you will see in early August.
The season series between the Nats and Mets is now deadlocked at six games apiece. Thanks to their 3-2 win on Saturday, New York now holds a 33-32 lead in runs overall. Six of the 12 games they have played were decided by one run and another was decided by two runs. So far this season, the Nats and Mets have proven to be quite the even matchup.
It is, of course, important to note all the injuries the Nationals have endured this season. They have yet to field their full regular lineup once this season. But they are very close to being healthy now, at least on offense, and here the Mets have won two straight to begin this series.
After Sunday’s series finale, the two teams will play six more times this season. Included in those plans is a three-game series in New York to finish the regular season schedule. With the way these teams are going, there’s a good chance there will be plenty on the line for that weekend.
Ross has another impressive outing
Each baseball season has its fair share of surprises, and the 2015 Nationals have had plenty. In terms of positive developments, the emergence of rookie starter Joe Ross has to rank up there with the most positive of them.
When he debuted on June 6, few even within the organization knew what he was capable of. Many just noticed how he was the first teammate Bryce Harper had played with at the major league level that was younger than him. In the time since, however, Ross has proven his worth as an important part of the Nationals’ future.
Ross dazzled once again on Saturday night in his sixth career start. He allowed only two runs – both on Duda solo homers – on four hits and one walk.
Through six MLB outings, Ross has five quality starts. He has yet to allow more than three runs in a game or more than one walk in 6 1/3 innings.
The consistency Ross has shown so far is remarkable. In each of his outings he has struck out at least four batters with one walk or less. He is the first pitcher since at least 1914 (as far back as Baseball Reference’s play index goes) to began his career like that.
Back to the quality starts. Ross has five of them in six outings. For a comparison, it took Max Scherzer 12 career starts to get five and Gio Gonzalez needed 20. Stephen Strasburg has just two quality starts in 13 outings this season.
After Saturday’s start, Ross now has a 10.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio with 40 Ks so far to just four walks. He has the best SO/BB ratio among rookie starters this season by a longshot and the best of any rookie pitcher through six starts since at least 1901. Coincidentally, Scherzer (2008), Strasburg (2010) and Tanner Roark (2013) all led their respective rookie classes in the category.
I’ve been asked several times in recent weeks about the future of Ross in the Nationals’ organization both on Twitter and on the radio. After his first few outings and especially in early July, the thought of ‘selling high’ and trading him at some point seemed reasonable. But with the way he has pitched this season not only in the majors, but in each of his minor league stops, it’s becoming clear that Ross will end up being a big part of their 2016 plans.
Jordan Zimmermann and Fister are both impending free agents and the likelihood they will keep both, if either of them, seems low. Many expect Lucas Giolito to be ready to make the Opening Day roster next spring, but he will almost certainly be on an innings limit in 2016, given he is still recently removed from Tommy John surgery. It is unlikely the Nats will allow him to pitch beyond 160 innings or so next season.
Ross is the more likely candidate to step right in if Fister and/or Zimmermann leave and become a mainstay in their rotation. And with what he’s shown so far, the Nationals could have a potential star in the waiting.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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