The Washington Nationals are dealing with issues involving three members of their starting rotation.
No. 5 starter Joe Ross isn’t one of them.
Ross (1-0, 0.00), who elected not to play in 2020, has not given up a run in 11 innings over two starts. He makes his third start Monday when the Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of a three-game series.
On Wednesday, he threw six shutout innings in a win at St. Louis, allowing four hits and striking out five.
“It feels good,” Ross said. “Obviously, coming back and having a good start to the season in general, it’s always a good feeling to start strong.”
Ross’ success is all the more important considering the status of other pitchers in the rotation aside from ace Max Scherzer.
Jon Lester, who began the season on the COVID-related injured list, has yet to make a start. Patrick Corbin (0-2, 21.32), who pitches Tuesday, has been hit hard in his first two starts, and then there’s Stephen Strasburg.
Strasburg was scratched from his scheduled start Sunday morning and placed on the 10-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation. With his velocity down, Strasburg allowed eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits in a 14-3 loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday.
“We talked to him after the game, and he said he felt fine,” manager Dave Martinez said Sunday. “He went through his regular routine this whole week, and after his bullpen — which he threw well — he said he didn’t feel right. That was an indication we needed to get him checked out.”
In six career appearances against the Cardinals, including four starts, Ross is 3-0 with a 2.86 ERA.
The Nationals got a solid emergency start from Paolo Espino (0-1) on Sunday. He allowed two runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings, but Washington lost 5-2 to the Arizona Diamondbacks, settling for a split of a four-game series.
Shortstop Trea Turner hit two solo home runs, recording his sixth career multi-home run game. He is 9-for-21 (.429) with two doubles, two homers, three RBIs and three runs scored across the past five games.
Jack Flaherty (2-0, 4.11) makes his fourth start of the season for St. Louis. He was on the plus side last Tuesday, allowing a run on three hits and no walks over five inning innings against the Nationals. He struck out six while the Cardinals’ offense exploded for 15 hits.
“I just got to sit back and watch,” said Flaherty, who is 1-0 over two career starts against Washington with a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings.
On offense, the Cardinals rank 12th in the NL with a .221 team batting average and 11th with a .304 on-base percentage. They had a pair of offensive outbursts in the past week, but have also scored two or fewer runs in their last four defeats over a stretch of six games.
On Sunday, Aaron Nola tossed a two-hit shutout as the Phillies defeated the Cardinals 2-0. St. Louis had only three baserunners.
Among the struggling Cardinals is third baseman Matt Carpenter, who is hitting .069 (2-for-29), including a home run off Strasburg last week.
“Certainly, nobody’s more disappointed with the way this is going than me,” Carpenter said Sunday. “I mean, I individually have been off to a start that isn’t ideal. I’ve hit the ball hard, but at the end of the day, hits and production are what matters. We’re all frustrated, but at the same time, it’s way too early to panic, by any means.”
–Field Level Media