It was just a few weeks ago that Joe Ross' postseason availability was in question, and if he could return in time, whether he would pitch out of the Nationals' bullpen and or as a starter wasn't clear. Manager Dusty Baker wondered aloud if he would get his young right-hander back, even as Stephen Strasburg dealt with elbow injuries.
The progress Ross has made in a short period of time since is remarkable and after his 90-pitch outing on Thursday afternoon against the Diamondbacks, the 23-year-old looks and feels ready for the playoffs, and not just to pitch in relief, either.
"I'm hoping I get the opportunity to start, but that's up to them," Ross said. "But I'll take any opportunity I get to pitch and go out there and compete. I just want to help the team in any way I can."
Ross wasn't great on Thursday in his third start back from the disabled list. He only made it four innings, as his pitch count soared early. But in giving up just one run, he's now pitched 9 2/3 innings in three games back. During that stretch he's allowed three runs and struck out 14.
[RELATED: Wilson Ramos hopes to be back with Nationals]
It has been a process of baby steps for the Nats starter, a slow progression back from right shoulder inflammation, an injury rehab that featured a setback in late July. Now, though, he is essentially back to normal, just in time for the NL Division Series which begins next week.
"I feel good. I felt really good today. I felt really good last start. I guess it's just a point of executing pitches," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind really on whether I can go out and compete."
Baker mentioned that Ross could pitch in releif early in the NLDS against the Dodgers. That could keep him available for a start later on, if it's kept short like a normal bullpen session.
But one has to wonder if Ross has improved his case enough to pitch Game 3 of that series, given Gio Gonzalez' recent struggles. The lefty has allowed 19 earned runs in his last 23 innings going back five starts.
Regardless, Ross has certainly come a long way in just three MLB outings.
"He looks ready," second baseman Wilmer Difo said through an interpreter.
With all the negative injury news the Nationals have received in recent days, between Wilson Ramos' season-ending injury and Strasburg essentially ruled out for the NLDS, having Ross fully back in the mix is a nice change of fortune for the NL East champs.
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After waiting four hours and 13 minutes, the Detroit Tigers’ scheduled game with Cleveland was rained out. Six inches of rain fell at Comerica Field, making it unplayable.
The Tigers and Indians will have to play on Monday if the wild-card race is undecided.
That’s not good news for the Orioles. If the Orioles and Detroit tie, a game will then have to played at Oriole Park to decide the second wild-card team, complicating the postseason schedule.
The Tigers have three games at Atlanta while the Orioles play three at Yankee Stadium. If the Indians-Tigers game is necessary on Monday, the Orioles may have to come back to Baltimore to await the result.
Of course, the Orioles could make it necessary by winning the final four games of the season, beginning with tonight’s game in Toronto.
If Orioles win and Tigers losses combine for four, then Detroit is eliminated.
Seattle, which trails by two games, plays four with Oakland.
Potentially worse news for the Orioles is that this weekend’s weather forecast in New York is horrible.
The wild-card game is scheduled for Tuesday, and the Division Series is scheduled for Thursday, so a tiebreaker game between the Orioles and Tigers could certainly complicate things.