Ross falls back into early-season struggles, Treinen's foot bruised

Against the Padres on Sunday, Joe Ross was unable to build off his last start.

This was the same scenario that hurt him to begin the season. On April 19, he had a good start against the Braves. He followed that with two tough starts against Colorado and the Mets in which he allowed a combined 10 runs over 8 2/3 innings.

After working on his mechanics at Triple-A Syracuse and building his velocity back up, Ross returned to D.C. and had a very solid effort in a 10-1 win over Seattle on May 23. In the start, he went eight innings, allowing only one run on five hits with no walks and six strikeouts.

But in Sunday's rain-delayed start against the Padres, Ross allowed 12 hits in just four innings (plus three batters) as the Padres dropped the Nationals 5-3.

Joe-Ross-white-sidebar.jpgThe Padres tallied at least one hit in every inning Ross was on the mound. Eight of the nine starters in San Diego's lineup - everyone but catcher Luis Torrens - had at least one base hit against the right-hander.

Ross had worked on his arm slot, and against the Mariners his velocity returned. His slider had bite. But Sunday he was unable to repeat those two important parts of his success for the entire outing.

"I felt OK. I felt like it was rushing a little bit," Ross said. "Felt like there was some pitches it was there, some pitches I didn't give it enough time. But they were swinging today. They had some hard-hit balls and singles that dropped. It was just kind of one of those games where stuff just wasn't all the way there."

His former minor league teammate in the San Diego organization, right fielder Hunter Renfroe, notched two singles and scored a run against him. The concern about Ross losing velocity, which plagued him back in April, was not lost on Renfroe on Sunday.

"I played with Ross for a while," Renfroe said. "He lost some velo after about the fourth inning and his slider wasn't as sharp as it had been before."

Nationals acting manager Chris Speier noticed that Ross's slider didn't have its normal bite. That was another pitch that wasn't breaking in the Colorado game this season, and it happened again at times Sunday.

"I just think it was the command of his slider," Speier said. "He left some pitches out over the middle of the plate and didn't have the sharpness that he had last time."

Ryan Schimpf began the scoring with a two-run homer in the first. Ross's counterpart, Jhoulys Chacin, provided an RBI single in the second. Chase d'Arnaud's two-run single chased Ross in the fifth.

But a walk to Wil Myers with two outs in the top of the first preceded the Schmipf blast and set the early tone.

"We had some good at-bats on him from the get-go," said Padres manager Andy Green. "The Wil Myers walk in the first was a battle walk. We have not had a ton of those. It wears a pitcher down."

Ross knew from what Schimpf had done earlier in the series that it would be a tough at-bat.

"I just left a slider supposed to be back foot, just left it over the plate," Ross said. "He put a good swing on it. He hit that changeup off of Max (Scherzer) the other day out, ball almost hit the dirt. Put a good swing, hit it over the fence."

Ross was clearly not happy with the outcome and lasting only three batters into the fifth. He said he can still learn as much from tough outings as he would when he pitches eight strong innings.

"Definitely. I am sure there are different things: Pitching inside probably would've been one thing," Ross said. "I feel like I kind of fell behind in some counts. Didn't execute great on two-strike counts. There are things I can take into the next game and games after that. You lose some games, you still learn some things. Win some games, learn some things."

Late in the game, reliever Blake Treinen got hit on the foot by a well-struck comebacker off the bat of Yangervis Solarte. The ball ricocheted upward and hit Treinen's chin. He located the ball and threw out Solarte for the third out in the eighth.

As he limped back to the dugout, Treinen quickly sat down on the dugout steps and was tended to by the team medical staff.

Treinen said afterwards that the foot injury was "just a bruise."

"I (was) just trying to figure out where the ball is and trying to see if I can make a read on it," Treinen said. "It stung a little bit, so just trying to figure out where the ball is. Hopefully, I can play on it. Fortunately, it worked out."

He ended up pitching two scoreless innings, allowing only one hit. Jacob Turner also tossed two scoreless innings and Enny Romero recorded three strikeouts against one walk in the ninth.

The Nationals scored single runs in the first, second and fifth, but were never able to get that big inning going versus Chacin. They employed three of their usual starters - Jayson Werth, Matt Wieters and Daniel Murphy - in pinch-hitting roles late in the game, but all came up empty.

Speier was waiting for that moment he could have used Bryce Harper with men on base down two, but that opportunity never arrived.

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