In first victory, Ross allows 'pen to rest

Rookie righty attacks Brewers, whiffs eight in eight innings

In first victory, Ross allows 'pen to rest

MILWAUKEE -- Nationals starter Joe Ross enjoyed having chocolate sauce dumped on his head by teammate Max Scherzer, a celebration tactic that happens in Washington's clubhouse from time to time.

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That's because the 22-year-old, making his second Major League start, delivered for the Nationals exactly what they needed in their 7-2 win over the Brewers on Saturday.

Ross scattered seven hits over eight innings, allowed just two runs and struck out eight. It was the longest outing of his professional career, including the Minors, and provided relief for a bullpen that has been frequently used lately.

"I didn't walk anyone until the second-to-last batter. That helped with pitch count," Ross said after throwing 108 pitches. "We were a little short [in the bullpen], so it was huge for us."

Ross' attack of the strike zone impressed both his manager and teammates, plus set a team record in the process. Dating back to his last outing, Ross didn't walk a batter until issuing one to Adam Lind in the eighth, a streak of 51 straight batters.

"We needed that one," manager Matt Williams said. "He was aggressive in the strike zone, getting ahead of guys. He was throwing where he wants to, that's the most important thing."

Batterymate Wilson Ramos added: "He's a 22-year-old, but he looked like an experienced pitcher on the mound."

Ross practiced damage control early, stranding runners for four straight frames from the second to the fifth. After that, though, he found a groove, retiring 11 of the last 12 batters he faced.

The eight-inning performance matched the longest outing for the Nationals this season (Scherzer twice, Jordan Zimmermann once).

"I don't try to nit-pick around the zone," Ross said. "I like to go after hitters. That kind of eliminates walks."

As for pitching into the eighth for the first time in his career?

"I felt good," he said. "Towards the end, I definitely had more adrenaline pumping. It wasn't like I felt as tired as I probably am right now."

Brandon Curry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.