Gem makes Ross' coming-out party official

Gem makes Ross' coming-out party official

WASHINGTON -- From the manager to the catcher and all the way around the Nationals' clubhouse, Friday night's hottest question -- What made starter Joe Ross so good? -- kept returning the same result.

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"He's aggressive," manager Matt Williams said after Washington's 4-1 win over Pittsburgh.

Williams called Ross "aggressive" four times in as many minutes. Closer Drew Storen mentioned his "demeanor" and how he "attacked" hitters. Catcher Wilson Ramos brought up how the rookie didn't pitch scared.

They all remembered to mention his slider, too.

Ross used that slider, which ranged from impressive to unhittable, along with his sinker and changeup to strike out 11 in his third Major League start, a one-run spectacle against one of baseball's hottest lineups that lasted 7 1/3 frames.

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"I always thought of myself as being good enough to be up here," Ross said. "That's been a big part of being confident out there on the mound -- just thinking that I belong. I don't think I could have imagined it going so well so early."

Ten of Ross' 11 strikeouts came on the slider, and he threw it 77 percent of the time for a strike -- 38 percent of the time it induced a swing and miss, per BrooksBaseball.net.

"It's going straight down," said Storen, who is known to have an impressive slider of his own. "You could tell if they were laying off, they were probably looking for it and he'll go back to it the next pitch and get him swinging on it."

While Ross' days in the Majors are limited, an unavoidable result with Stephen Strasburg's return from the disabled list nearing, his performance in his three Major League starts has made a statement.

In 20 1/3 big league innings, Ross has 23 strikeouts and two walks, and he has allowed just three earned runs over his last 15 1/3 innings.

"It allows us to have confidence in him in any situation," Williams said. "Whether that's starting, or he comes back and is in the bullpen or what have you. It's the impression that we all hoped he would make and I'm sure he's proud he made. So we'll see where we go from here."

Ross' night, and perhaps his coming-out party to a national audience, ended after a one-out single in the eighth inning. After he handed the ball to Williams, his walk back to the dugout was accompanied by a standing ovation from 38,935 appreciative fans.

"It felt pretty good," Ross said. "Hopefully, I get it a few more times."

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