Nationals World Series flashback: Joe Ross gets his chance

Todd Dybas
·2 min read

Nationals World Series flashback: Joe Ross gets his chance originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The World Series was already turned on its head, 2-1 with only the road team winning, when Max Scherzer fell out of bed and Davey Martinez received one of the strangest calls a manager ever will.

A year ago, the Nationals were crossing their fingers a day after scratching Max Scherzer from his Game 5 World Series start. The issue occurred on a Saturday morning, Scherzer too rigid to dress himself without the help of his wife, launching Joe Ross onto the mound the following Sunday after a Saturday night loss evened the series.

Scherzer’s World Series participation appeared over. He needed to turn his shoulders in order to swing his blue eye to the right and look at someone. Scherzer had neck problems in the past. But, this was different, in both timing and level of concern: he couldn’t twist his neck, let alone pitch, in the middle of the World Series.

“I’m as disappointed as I possibly could be in not being able to pitch tonight,” Scherzer said at the time. “It’s Game 5 of the World Series. I’ve pitched through so much sh...crap in my career that it would be easy to pitch through at this point. This is literally impossible to do anything with.”

Joe Ross was Martinez’s first call after receiving the news about Scherzer. Ross would have to pitch Game 5 on little notice, the team possibly facing elimination if it lost Saturday night, and do so against one of the best offenses of the last 100 years. Opposing him would be heavyweight Gerrit Cole.

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Ross received a you-can-do-it cheer on his way to warm up in the bullpen during a warm fall night. It was 72 degrees when he released his first pitch to George Springer, who walked. José Altuve hit into a double play, Michael Brantley grounded out and Ross could exhale. One inning was done. Meanwhile, the medical staff worked on Scherzer’s back and neck.

But a two-run homer by Yordan Álvarez landed over the right field wall the next inning. Carlos Correa hit a two-run home run two innings later. Houston built its lead to 4-0 while Cole crushed the Nationals hitters on the way to a seven-inning, nine-strikeout, one-run performance.

Overall, Ross was competitive, kept the game relatively close and survived five innings. If the Nationals drew up an outline for him, it would have sounded something like that. They just couldn’t do anything with Cole. And, Daniel Hudson let the game get away from them when he allowed three runs across the eighth and ninth innings.

Scherzer shocked everyone once again two days later in Houston. He was back on the mound with the season nine innings from being over.