Ross impresses in first start since 2019

April 10th, 2021

The last time the Nationals left Dodger Stadium, Howie Kendrick had belted a go-ahead grand slam in the 10th inning of Game 5 of the National League Division Series to advance the Nats on their World Series route and send the Dodgers home.

That was Oct. 9, 2019. Exactly one year-and-a-half later, the Nationals returned to Los Angeles for their first road trip of the season. Only this afternoon, the Nats were one year removed from their title run, and the Dodgers were participating in the ring ceremony in front of their home crowd after winning it all in 2020.

“I came in this morning and sat at my desk and had some really good memories,” manager Dave Martinez said before the Nats’ 1-0 loss. “Today, we’ll watch these guys have their ceremony, get their rings, only to wish we were able to get our rings in a ceremony with 50,000 fans last year. That’s what we missed. But for me, it gives us motivation to go out and try to get another one and celebrate the right way.”

Even Joe Ross’ first start of the 2021 had World Series ties to it. The last time Ross, who elected not to play last season, made a start was Game 5 of the ‘19 World Series. That was in place of an injured Max Scherzer. Friday’s start was as a member of the Nats’ pitching rotation after earning the role this spring.

“A long time [since my last game],” Ross said. “A couple years, it feels like.”

The California native allowed two hits, two walks and struck out four over five scoreless innings. The Nationals were mindful of the fact Ross hadn’t pitched in a long time, plus an additional 12 games since the start of their season was postponed, so Martinez made a call to the bullpen after the fifth.

“He hasn’t done much [since the postponement],” Martinez said. “Then he goes out there and does what he does against a really good team and really good lineup. That’s pretty impressive.”

Ross leaned on his sinker for 40% of his 67 pitches, and his fastball velocity reached 93.6 mph. He noted finding the strike zone and getting ahead of the count early on helped him establish a rhythm that carried him through the outing.

“He was really good,” Martinez said. “He kept the ball down in the zone, had some good movement on his fastball, good slider and changeup. If he can stay like that, and we have some consistency from him, we're going to be OK.”

Ross didn’t realize the Nationals’ last game at Dodger Stadium had been Kendrick’s heroic slam until someone mentioned it to him at breakfast. But when he got to the clubhouse, there was a reminder of what the Nats had accomplished that year after leaving Los Angeles. 

“It’s pretty funny -- there was a World Series sticker from 2019 in the locker, which I don’t know where it came from. I thought that was kind of ironic,” he said. “I don’t know how it got there or from who, but I had a good laugh at that.”