You remember that Joe Ross, right? He went 3-0 with a 0.79 ERA in his first four starts last season.
But this season began with a win in Atlanta, and then a pair of starts where he didn't get through the fourth inning and allowed a combined 10 runs.
This time, hours after being called up from Triple-A Syracuse, Ross was back and his velocity was back, too, hitting 93-94 mph early on and then setting the tone with a slider that was moving well.
On a rainy night in D.C., Ross was on target. The eight innings were the most by Ross since June 13, 2015 at Milwaukee.
The Nationals again gave him a ton of run support to allow Ross to just concentrate on pitching, scoring eight runs on nine hits in the game-changing fourth inning.
"It's great. I was just happy to be back, first of all," Ross said. "Coming back and kind of getting a big start for myself after going down to Syracuse for a little bit. I felt good out there. Obviously, we hit well, I think mostly in that fourth inning. Just trying to stay in the strike zone and after that kind of just pound the zone and let the defense make plays."
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the 62 runs the Nationals have scored in Ross's first four starts are the most in major league history for a pitcher in his first four starts of a season.
Here are the final scores of the games Ross pitched in this season for the Nationals, all wins (plus his result): 14-4 at Atlanta (win), 15-12 at Colorado (no-decision), 23-5 over Mets (no-decision) and 10-1 over Seattle (win).
Third baseman Anthony Rendon was the leader of the offense for Ross, smacking two homers and adding five RBIs, finishing 3-for-4.
"He deserved it," Rendon said. "He's been working hard all season. Just caught some bad breaks. He's been struggling a little bit, so it was awesome to see him go out there and do what he's capable of doing."
Ross said that kind of inning has it's challenges for a pitcher in the next frame, too.
"I think probably that first inning after that long inning: for the fourth inning to go into the top of the fifth, kind of just staying loose, staying warm and keeping that groove going because we must have been hitting for 25-plus minutes or so," Ross said. "Kind of just trying to pick up where I left off the inning before."
Manager Dusty Baker said it all comes down to velocity for Ross. Once he shows he can bring it, the other pitches start becoming more difficult for the batter to find.
"That was the guy I've been reading about in Triple-A," Baker said. "He threw a lot of strikes, minimized his pitches. First time we've gone eight, just at 100. His velocity stayed up most of the game. His arm slot was what he worked on. He gave us just what we needed, especially when you're going through a really long streak. Gave the bullpen a rest."
Baker spoke about the work Ross had done with pitching coach Mike Maddux, work that focused on his arm slot and what was wrong with his mechanics.
"I was trying to work on it every day. For me, it was almost just giving my arm enough time to get up there, and not rushing down the mound," Ross said. "Because when you tend to overthrow, things speed up and you don't really give (yourself) time to get to the correct arm slot. That was really the major thing. That was probably what I was thinking about most as I was going later into the game."
This night Ross put it all back together for a solid eight innings. Ryan Zimmerman, who started the game 3-for-3 and scored two runs, explained why Ross was so good.
"He was throwing a lot of strikes. It looked like his velocity was up a little bit," Zimmerman said. "Joe's been really good for us. Last year, he was incredible. For him to go down there and learn something or come back and maybe just take a breather. It seemed like he was 93-94 (mph) and having that sink on the ball, it's really nice."