Mark it down, Ross earns first MLB win since 2021

Brewers right-hander picks up rotation with 7 K's over 6 1/3 strong frames against Reds

April 10th, 2024

CINCINNATI -- Brewers right-hander waited 1,015 days to taste victory in the Major Leagues. Not that he was counting.

Ross, who signed with Milwaukee this past offseason after completing his comeback from a second Tommy John surgery, was the pitcher of record in Tuesday night’s 9-5 win over the Reds after working into the seventh inning on 87 pitches at Great American Ball Park.

It was a triumph of perseverance that Ross hopes is just the start.

“It’s exciting. Another marker,” said Ross, whose comeback has been full of milestones, big and small. “It’s not the finish line. I had to win a game at some point.”

Ross picked the right time. Every inning matters for the Brewers, who are in a “tough stretch” of pitching, as manager Pat Murphy put it, after some injuries thinned a starting pitching corps already altered by offseason trades that sent Corbin Burnes to the Orioles and Adrian Houser to the Mets. Milwaukee is also missing the injured Brandon Woodruff.

The club signed Ross for depth during the Winter Meetings, then gave his elbow a long look before making the deal official. With veteran Wade Miley on the injured list to start the season, Ross cracked the Opening Day rotation as the fifth starter and worked 3 2/3 scoreless innings on 73 pitches against the Twins during the opening homestand.

Tuesday’s performance represented a significant step forward. Ross held Cincinnati to three runs (two earned) on five hits and one walk in 6 1/3 innings. After issuing five walks compared to three strikeouts against the Twins, Ross walked only one Reds batter and struck out seven, five of those on sliders.

By night’s end, Ross was a winning pitcher for the first time since June 29, 2021, when he was with the Nationals.

“That’s the story of the game, Joe Ross,” Murphy said. “That guy was the Joe Ross of old. And give [catcher] William [Contreras] a ton of credit, because he dissected what Joe was tonight and just went with it. Because Joe, early, was behind in the count on everybody and getting away with some things, and William kind of dissected it and put it together.

“I give William as much credit as Joe, but he was spectacular.’”

Ross’ toughest test came in the fourth, when three of the first four Reds hitters tallied hits to leave runners at second and third with one run in. Ross rallied to strike out Spencer Steer and Nick Martini to end the threat.

“He was making some perfect pitches with the slider,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It had been a couple of years since we’ve seen him. We were prepared for him, but you have to give him credit for making some of the pitches he made.”

Today’s pitchers measure things by “ups” more than pitch counts, meaning the number of times they sit between innings and then get back up on the mound. Doing so seven times means Ross is fully stretched out as a starting pitcher for the first time in a long time.

“That’s the goal,” Ross said. “That’s the most ups I’ve had in a while. I think I had five in one spring game. It helps when you have a few short innings, seven-10 pitches with early contact. Minimizing the walks was the biggest step from one game to today’s game.”