Nats' Ross cruises past Crew in 1st MLB win
MILWAUKEE -- Twenty-two-year-old right-hander Joe Ross pitched eight strong innings for his first Major League victory in the Nationals' 7-2 win over the Brewers on Saturday at Miller Park.
Yunel Escobar and Wilson Ramos each hit two-run home runs, and Bryce Harper contributed two RBIs before leaving the game in the ninth as a precautionary measure after being hit on the left quad by a 95-mph fastball from Michael Blazek. By knocking around Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson, the Nationals denied what would have been Milwaukee's first three-game winning streak in more than a month.
"He was aggressive in the strike zone, getting ahead of guys," Nationals manager Matt Williams said of Ross. "We needed that one. That's good to give the bullpen a little bit of rest. It's been taxed lately."
Nelson surrendered seven runs in a game for the second time in three June starts while allowing 10 hits, two walks and two hit batsmen in five-plus innings. Both of Washington's home runs followed walks which included close two-strike pitches. Escobar's came with one out in the third and gave the Nationals a 3-2 lead. Ramos delivered in a three-run fifth as the second of five consecutive hitters to reach safely against Nelson with two outs.
"It is just unacceptable," Nelson said. "I just have to be more consistent. I have to be better."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Ross delivers: Ross gave Washington, and especially the fatigued bullpen, exactly what it needed, scattering seven hits over eight innings and retiring 11 of the last 12 batters he faced. He practiced damage control early on, stranding runners in four straight frames from the second to the fifth. The outing was the longest of Ross' professional career.
"I didn't walk anyone until the second-to-last batter," Ross said. "That helped with pitch count. We were a little short [in the bullpen], so it was huge for us." More >
Trouble off the bat: Harper's RBI single was the third consecutive one-out hit against Nelson in the first, a frame that has given the right-hander trouble this season. Nelson has allowed at least one first-inning run in six of his past eight starts and has surrendered 12 earned runs and 17 hits in that frame in 13 starts.
"I think he gets a little excited and overthrows a little bit," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said of Nelson. "That's all it is. The thing is with him, he tries to be too perfect, and whenever he tries to be too perfect, he gets behind in the count." More >
Overdue Escobar: After an Anthony Rendon walk, Escobar connected on a 1-0 pitch from Nelson in the third, clubbing a two-run shot to center field, his third homer of the season. It was Escobar's first blast since April 21 against the Cardinals.
Held up: Trailing, 3-2, the Brewers had a chance to tie the game in the fourth when Scooter Gennett doubled with speedster Jean Segura on first base. Two innings earlier, Segura had scored in the same scenario, but this time, third-base coach Ed Sedar threw up a stop sign, even though there were two outs and Nelson was due to bat. When Nelson was called out on strikes, the inning was over, and the Nationals padded their lead with three runs against Nelson in the next half-inning.
"[Nationals shortstop Ian] Desmond is maybe the best in the league throwing on the relay," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "You have a choice there to challenge the best guy in the league [or hold him and try for a run] with two outs with the pitcher hitting. It's always easier after you see what happens."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Harper's fifth-inning walk gave the Nats' right fielder more walks (52) than strikeouts (51) this season. The last qualifying player 22 or younger to accomplish the feat in a season was Albert Pujols in 2002. Pujols was the first since 1991.
Nationals: Right-hander Max Scherzer will take the mound in Sunday's 2:10 p.m. ET series finale as the Nats seek a split of the four-game set. Scherzer's 2.13 ERA is good for eighth in the Major Leagues and he's struck out 97 in 84 1/3 innings.
Brewers: Former first-round Draft pick Taylor Jungmann will make his Miller Park debut when the teams finish their four-game series. The right-hander delivered seven innings of one-run ball and won his Major League debut at Pittsburgh. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. CT.
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