Ross goes 6 strong as Nationals top Padres

Ross goes 6 strong as Nationals top Padres

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals, who are chasing the Mets in the National League East race, got a much-needed win on Thursday night against the Padres. Right-hander Joe Ross pitched six strong innings in a 4-2 victory at Nationals Park. Washington remains 6 1/2 games back of the Mets, who topped the Phillies.

"We need to win series. We can't worry about anything else or anybody else. We have to take care of our business. It was a good win tonight," Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth said.

The Nats pulled ahead during a two-run fifth, with Ryan Zimmerman supplying a go-ahead RBI single. Zimmerman added a solo homer in the seventh, and Werth went deep in the sixth. The Padres had the tying run at the plate in the seventh, but Anthony Rendon made a tremendous stop at third base to get the Nats out of the inning.

Statcast: Rendon snags screamer

The Padres took a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Cory Spangenberg singled and went to third on a throwing error by catcher Wilson Ramos. Spangenberg then scored on a sacrifice fly by Yangervis Solarte.

San Diego pitcher Andrew Cashner started fast, opening the game with four shutout innings before running into trouble in that fateful fifth inning. He allowed three runs on nine hits with six strikeouts, throwing 121 pitches over 5 2/3 innings.

Ross dominates: Ross threw 77 pitches and allowed one unearned run in six innings. The one hit he allowed was the single to Spangenberg. Ross also struck out seven.

Ross is on an innings limit. Is his season close to ending soon? Not yet, anyway.

"Tonight is an indication that he is feeling OK," manager Matt Williams said. "What did he have, 77 pitches tonight? If we could limit that and get ourselves in a position to win ballgames, then we will try to do that. Each game will dictate what we can or can't do."

Ross earns fifth win

Speed from Spangenberg: The Padres aren't blessed with an abundance of speed on their roster, but Spangenberg has plenty of it. He showed some in the fourth inning, bunting a ball out in front of the plate, turning it into an infield single and then racing to third base when Ramos rushed his throw and fired it down the first-base line for an error. He scored the game's first run on a sacrifice fly by Solarte.

"We've been working on it every day. Spangy's been out there every day working on his bunting," said Padres interim manager Pat Murphy. "It's great to see that happen."

Spangenberg reaches third

Clutch hitting by Washington: The Nationals scored two runs in the fifth to take a 2-1 lead. Zimmerman highlighted the scoring with an RBI single. Werth and Zimmerman had solo homers in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively.

"Jayson came up with the big homer to put us ahead by a couple and Zim added one, too. All in all, it was a good game," Williams said.

Werth's solo home run

Field day: Melvin Upton Jr. had quite a day in center field for the Padres. He ran down a long drive in the first inning with an over-the-shoulder catch. He trapped Rendon's single and threw to first base to nab Werth, who was stuck between first and second, in the third inning, and then threw out Bryce Harper at the plate as he tried to score in the fifth inning. More >

"It was huge," Cashner said of Upton's defensive plays. "He's a true center fielder. That [first-inning catch] was one of the best ones I've seen besides Will Venable's catch in San Francisco [in 2013]. He runs like a deer out there. That and the throw out there, that was big."

Statcast: Upton Jr.'s great grab

"He was sensational. Dominant. We didn't hit too many balls hard off him. ... He was great, great sinker, great two-seamer, great location, good slider, took a little off, great composure. He's following in the footsteps of his brother [Padres pitcher Tyson Ross]. He was very, very good," -- Murphy, on Ross, whom he once managed in the Minor Leagues

In the seventh inning, Padres reliever Kevin Quackenbush allowed a solo home run to Zimmerman. That marked the 45th home run that a Padres reliever has allowed this season -- which tied San Diego for the NL lead with the Braves. A year ago, Padres relief pitchers allowed 33 home runs.

Padres: The club will open a three-game series on Friday against the Phillies at 4:05 p.m. PT. Ian Kennedy (8-11, 4.01 ERA) gets the start. In seven starts since the All-Star break, he has a 2.27 ERA.

Nationals: The club will begin a three-game series against the Marlins on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Right-hander Max Scherzer starts the opener after the rotation was shuffled for matchups down the road. Scherzer is 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA in three career starts against the Marlins.

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Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast. Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.