Washington Nationals: 5 to watch in Oakland
By Ron Juckett
Which Joe Ross will we see on Saturday afternoon? The one who dazzled over eight innings against the Seattle Mariners or the pitcher who stunk facing San Diego last Sunday.
Fifth starters are quirky. If they give you five innings and a chance to win, they have done the job. Ross, in five starts mixed with two stints in Syracuse, has pitched past the fifth twice.
He throws strikes, 67 percent by Baseball Reference’s count, but they are flat. Over 27.2 innings, he allowed 37 hits, 19 runs but a scant five walks. When things work, he induces the grounder. It is the flyball that gets him in trouble.
Over his first 25 pitches this year, opponents are hitting .370. The rest of those numbers are slightly better but not great. By starting the game on the wrong foot, he loses confidence and concentration early. The Nats score by the bushel for him and the bottom line is not hurt by his starts. Still, you cannot expect six runs of support a start.
The large foul territory of Oakland will help. So will being on the road and an Athletics lineup not full of bombers. But, mindset is an issue. He must control the game on his end, something he did not do against the Padres.