Washington Nationals starter Joe Ross has slowly been working his way back from injury with mixed results. How much faith should the Nats have in him?
Heading into September, the biggest question surrounding Washington Nationals pitcher Joe Ross was whether or not he would be able to make an impact out of the bullpen. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Tanner Roark formed a formidable trio at the top of the rotation, and the organization appeared content with Gio Gonzalez’s performance.
Now, as the calendar turns to October, it is evident that he is going to be called upon to play a much bigger role this postseason. Strasburg is out until at least the National League Championship Series with an elbow injury. Gonzalez’s 7.43 ERA in the month of September has many worried as to whether or not he can keep the Dodgers’ offense in check in the first round. Ross just eclipsed 63 pitches for the first time since returning from a shoulder injury, but he is going to be a key arm for the Nats in the first round.
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Last time out, Joe Ross allowed only one run on three hits across four innings. His problem, however, was that it took him 90 pitches to do it. Ross posted a 2.79 ERA across 9.2 innings of work in September, but never made it into the fifth inning in any of his three starts.
While he has had some success, a major factor to look out for in the NLDS will be how he fares against lineups the third time around.
This season, opponents have posted a .556 OPS in their first at-bats of the game against him. After that, hitters begin to make adjustments. The second time around, batters sport an .876 OPS. The third? .725. With Ross not having reached the fifth inning in a start since July 2, he hasn’t been able to work on keeping hitters guessing late in games.
Ross primarily relies on his sinker and slider while occasionally mixing in a changeup. When a hitter only has two pitches to look out for, the pitcher has to have perfect placement to keep them honest. Ross’s sinker/slider combination is filthy, but he is going to need to be on his game if he wants to go deep into his start.
Whether the Nats like it or not, Joe Ross is going to be taking the mound for them in Game 4 of the NLDS. He has shown impressive stuff at times, but the team should be prepared if the Dodgers force him out of the game early.