WASHINGTON -- After pitching to a combined 14.14 ERA in his past two starts, Nationals right-hander Joe Ross broke out of his slump against the Orioles on Thursday night. Ross allowed one run and recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings to lead the Nationals to a 6-1
WASHINGTON -- After pitching to a combined 14.14 ERA in his past two starts, Nationals right-hander Joe Ross broke out of his slump against the Orioles on Thursday night. Ross allowed one run and recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings to lead the Nationals to a 6-1 win at Nationals Park in a makeup of a May 11 rainout.
Ross returned from the Minor Leagues about three weeks ago after improving his arm slot. He had a tough time in two of his three starts since, but likely sealed his spot as the team's No. 5 starter with this performance, receiving a standing ovation as he exited. He credited his improved command to slowing down between pitches and not getting overwhelmed in pressure situations.
"He was real calm, and we are all proud of him," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "That's the Joe Ross we've been waiting for."
Washington stole five bases behind Ross, led by Trea Turner, who swiped a career-high three while hitting 3-for-4 and scoring two runs. Turner began the Nationals' four-run rally in the first inning by scoring after stealing two bases, while Stephen Drew notched his first two hits since returning from the disabled list on May 29 -- one of which was a solo home run in the fifth inning.
"It's frustrating," Orioles starter Alec Asher said of the Nationals' running game. "I don't know the exact stats, but I don't know if I've had a steal attempt on me all year. It was different, but, you know, it's something I've got to be better at."
The Nationals, who have averaged 10.71 runs in Ross' seven starts this season, chased Asher after four innings with three of their regulars getting a night off. The right-hander allowed five runs on seven hits, walked four and struck out six.
"A lot of those guys, they want to play, and so when they get in the lineup ... they play really well and play hard," Turner said. "That's all you can ask for. The ball bounced our way tonight."
Joey Rickard plated Baltimore's run with an RBI single off Ross in the seventh.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Chasing Turner: Before the game, Turner said that the Nationals got little rest after coming home from a nine-game California road trip, but he ensured his team didn't come out sluggish. After walking to begin the bottom of the first, Turner stole second and third base before scoring on Bryce Harper's single. That set the tone for the Nationals' offense, as Drew recorded his first Major League hit since April 10 before Michael Taylor plated two runs with a double to give Washington a four-run cushion after the first frame.
"We try to jump on the team early to give our pitchers some breathing room early," Baker said. "Doesn't always happen, but [Ross] got out of the early innings with a very low pitch count ... which is what you want." More >
Hey, Joe: Ross struck out the side in the fifth inning to notch his 10th K. It marked the second time in his career he notched a double-digit-strikeout game -- the last time coming on June 19, 2015, when he struck out 11 and allowed one run in the Nationals' 4-1 win over the Pirates. Despite having the worst ERA of his career, Ross began the night with his best strikeout rate per nine innings (8.5).
Ross put the game ball in a glass container and displayed it in his locker with the date and strikeout total written in black marker.
"Fastball command was good, and then following up with kind of sharp sliders throughout the game," Ross said of how he struck out 12. "Usually, it kind of starts well, and then toward the end of the game, as you get a little tired, your slider might fly down a little bit. It was pretty good throughout most of the game today."
"You could ask [the Nationals], too. We've had two extra-inning games and you jump up and get on a bus just like they get on a plane to cross the country. Usually, it boils down to the only people that get normal rest [are] the two starting pitchers. It usually boils down to whose starting pitcher pitches well." -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter, on the team's exhaustion after playing back-to-back extra-inning games
"Eventually, he's going to take off, and it's going to be pretty hard to throw him out. ... Luckily, I don't have that problem. Hopefully, we're on the same team for a while so I don't have to worry about that." -- Ross, on Turner
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
In the Nationals' past three games, their starters have a 0.89 ERA with 34 strikeouts and three walks.
Orioles: The Orioles will travel to New York to start a three-game series against the Yankees on Friday. Baltimore will send Dylan Bundy to the mound. The righty is coming off his shortest outing of the season, going just five innings in a 5-2 loss to the Red Sox. First pitch is slated for 7:35 p.m. ET.
Nationals:Tanner Roark will start for the second time against the Rangers, who drafted him in 2008, on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET to open the three-game series. After falling behind in counts often earlier this season, the right-hander has allowed five runs while striking out 18 over 21 2/3 innings in his past three starts.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore.