WASHINGTON — The first thing to know about Joe Ross is that things did not start well this year, but they did get better.
Ross is unexpectedly starting Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night, with Max Scherzer scratched due to neck and back spasms. It places Ross, a 26-year-old right-hander, in a glaring spotlight it never would've seemed he'd be in earlier this year.
Here's what you need to know about Ross:
- He joined the Nationals in 2014: Ross was acquired in the same trade that brought Trea Turner to Washington, a three-team deal with San Diego and Tampa Bay, in which the Nationals sent Steven Souza to the Rays.
- He was a well-regarded prospect at the time: Ross was never projected to be a superstar, but he was a first-round pick of the Padres in 2011 and sneaked inside a couple top-100 prospect lists before he was an established major leaguer.
- His brother is big league pitcher Tyson Ross: The two Oakland, California natives both made it to the majors. Tyson Ross was an all-star in 2014 for the Padres, but has been inconsistent since then, bouncing around to four different teams.
- He had a promising first couple seasons in Washington: Joe Ross made his debut for the Nationals in 2015, when he was only 22. He had some success early on, posting a 3.64 ERA in 76 2/3 innings that season and following it up with a 3.43 ERA in 19 starts in 2016.
- Injuries derailed his progress: Ross first experienced shoulder issues in 2016, and in 2017 he tore his UCL and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. it showed in his numbers: After performing well in 2016, his ERA ballooned to 5.01 in 2017.
- His comeback has been a mixed bag: He returned to throw just 16 innings in three starts last year, recording an unimpressive 5.60 ERA in that brief span. When he started this season out of the bullpen for the Nationals, he got hit hard - an 11.05 ERA through June.
- Things began to turn around, though: He made nine starts from July on, and did quite a bit better, notching a 3.83 ERA and striking out 45 batters with 24 walks in 49 1/3 innings.
- He's started in the playoffs before: Back in 2016, Ross was called on in Game 1 of the NLDS. It didn't go so great - he allowed four runs in fewer than three innings.
- But he looked good the other night: Ross came into Game 3 on Friday night and worked through two clean innings, allowing just one hit without surrendering any runs. He didn't strike out or walk anyone.
- Stephen Strasburg is confident in him: "Joe's kind of done a little bit of everything this year, he's such a great competitor such a great athlete," Strasburg said after the news that Ross would start was announced. "I trust his ability to prepare."