HRs back Ross in Nats' win over Padres

June 18th, 2016

SAN DIEGO -- Daniel Murphy's big night helped make Joe Ross a winner facing his former organization at Petco Park, as the Nationals beat the Padres, 7-5, on Friday night.

Murphy gave Washington an early lead with a two-run third-inning double, and he would later add his 12th homer of the season. Ryan Zimmerman also homered, and Bryce Harper had a pair of hits to back Ross -- who was making his second start against the Padres since being dealt to the Nationals in 2014. Ross whiffed six over six innings, while allowing three runs to give the Nationals their 14th win in their last 18 games.

"Offensively we're grinding them out, bullpen has been doing a great job and pitchers are throwing up zeroes for us," Murphy said. "That's a good formula for winning."

Derek Norris took Ross deep in the sixth -- a laser down the left-field line that barely cleared the short fence in front of the Western Metal building. But Padres left-hander Christian Friedrich struggled, giving up six earned runs over six innings -- more than he had allowed in his previous four starts combined.

"My offspeed stuff [I] definitely didn't execute," Friedrich said. "[I] left it up in the zone. I'd say that's the difference between last outing and this outing. I felt like I was getting the ball in the zone with the heater quite a bit, and just didn't execute with the breaking balls and offspeed [pitches]."


Ross returns: The Nationals acquired Ross from the Padres in December of 2014 in a three-team trade with the Rays. He made his first start against the organization that drafted him in the city he still calls home Friday night, and turned in a quality start to help guide the Nats to victory. He's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two career starts against the team that drafted him.

"It just made it a little extra special I guess more than any start," Ross said. "Having my parents here, having my brother in the opposing dugout, but other than that it was just another game." More >

Double the fun: It didn't take long for Jon Jay to take over the National League doubles lead Friday. He laced Ross' first pitch off the center-field wall, giving him 23 on the season, and he'd make it 24 with a seventh-inning liner down the left-field line. Jay is now batting .368 with eight doubles this month.

"His favorite hitter growing up was Tony Gwynn," said Padres skipper Andy Green of Jay's ability to hit to all fields. "He gets something the other way, he's not afraid to slap it through the 5-6 hole or down the line. If someone comes in on him, he'll turn on it."

Backed by the offense: Despite some early season struggles to start the year from numerous spots in their lineup, the Nationals insisted that their offense was capable of regularly putting up numbers like Friday night. They scored seven runs, punctuated by home runs from Zimmerman and Murphy alongside a pair of hits from Harper. Since the start of June, Washington ranks first in the National League in slugging percentage, OPS, on-base percentage and runs scored.

"It's deep and nobody's giving away at-bats right now," Murphy said. "Just up and down the lineup the at-bats are quality. We're continuing to put traffic on the basepaths and put pressure on the pitcher."

Don't test Melvin: At the plate, Ross chipped in with a single of his own, and for a second it appeared as though he'd add an RBI, too. But Padres left fielder Melvin Upton Jr. came up firing, and he nailed Anthony Rendon with a one-hop strike to the plate. It was Upton's seventh outfield assist this season, putting him within one of the Major League lead.


Ryan Buchter's fastball continues to be his primary weapon -- and a dominant one at that. Buchter faced three Nationals hitters in the top of the ninth inning Friday, and struck out the side on 15 pitches, all fastballs. This season, 82.9 percent of Buchter's pitches have been four-seam fastballs. Among pitchers with at least 10 innings, only Jim Henderson of the Mets (83 percent) has thrown the pitch more frequently.


Nationals: Max Scherzer will look to continue his strong month of June when he faces takes the mound at Petco Park on Saturday. In three starts this month, he is 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA and 28 strikeouts with three walks.

Padres: Coming off his shortest start with the Padres, Colin Rea gets the ball against the Nationals for Game 3 of a four-game set with first-pitch time set for 7:10 p.m. PT. Rea, who has never faced Washington, allowed eight Marlins runs on Monday -- but got no help from his defense.

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