WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Ross was at his best on Tuesday night, when even his worst might have done the job for the Washington Nationals.
Ross (2-0) allowed one run over a career high-tying eight innings in his return from the minors, Anthony Rendon homered twice and drove in five runs, and the Nationals completed a 10-1 rout over the Seattle Mariners.
“There’s really nothing more that you can ask for as a starter,” said Ross, who struggled in three April starts before being optioned to Triple-A Syracuse on May 2. “It kind of just takes a good amount of pressure off my shoulders.”
Bryce Harper added his 14th homer and Jayson Werth hit his seventh off Chris Bergman (1-2), who allowed all of the Nationals’ runs and 14 of their 15 hits.
He was chased following an eight-run fourth, in which Rendon doubled before hitting his second homer of the game and seventh of the season.
“I don’t know,” Rendon said, trying to explain the Nationals’ nine-hit, 11-batter inning. “I guess we were swinging at good pitches.”
Ryan Zimmerman also had three hits.
Ross was demoted following his last two starts in April, in which he allowed five earned runs in each while failing to complete five innings.
This time, he looked more of the 2015-16 vintage that had pitched to sub-4 ERAs in each season. He yielded five hits and a walk while striking out six, and retired 12 straight batters after a leadoff hit.
Ross finished by striking out the side in the eighth, catching long reliever Emilio Pagan looking on his 102nd pitch.
“That’s the guy I’ve been reading about in Triple-A,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “His velocity stayed up most of the game. His arm slot is what he worked on. He gave us just what we needed.”
Mike Zunino homered in sixth in his return from his own minor league stint.
Robinson Cano went 0 for 3 in his first game back from the disabled list following a thigh injury as Seattle dropped its fourth straight.
“It was good to have Robby out there,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I know he’s not at 100 percent and trying to work his way through it, but was good to have him out there tonight.”
Rendon’s second-inning homer around the left field foul pole made it 2-0.
Then Werth, Harper and Rendon all connected in the fourth, as the Nationals scored seven of their eight runs with two outs.
“There were a couple of opportunities to get out of there with minimal damage,” Bergman said. “Just couldn’t quite get that last guy.”
THE ZUNINO RULES
Zunino has been given a daily checklist of pregame tasks upon his return from the minors, something Servais called “The Zunino Rules.”
“Jordan had his, why can’t Zunino have his?” Servais joked.
Zunino hit .167 in 24 games for Seattle before going down to Triple-A Tacoma early this month to clean up his swing. There, he hit .293 with five homers and 11 RBIs, earning a recall after 12 games.
Former Nationals manager and current Mariners third-base coach Manny Acta tipped his cap to applause from the Nationals Park crowd when he was shown on the scoreboard during the first inning.
Mariners: OF Mitch Haniger (oblique) is expected to join the club Wednesday and work out in Washington before being sent on a rehab assignment, Servais said.
Nationals: INF Stephen Drew (hamstring) has been sent to Florida to play in rehab games at extended spring training, Baker said.
Mariners: Bergman came within one of club records for most hits (15), runs (11) and home runs (five) allowed. Jamie Moyer owns a share of latter two.
Nationals: Washington’s 62 runs scored over Ross’s first four starts is the most support a starter has ever received to open the season, according to the Nationals PR Twitter account via Elias Sports Bureau.
Mariners: Rookie RHP Sam Gaviglio (0-0, 1.29) looks to build upon his first big league start, when he threw five shutout innings against the Chicago White Sox last Thursday.
Nationals: RHP Tanner Roark hasn’t seen much of Seattle, but hopes for a better outcome than when he allowed a season-high 11 hits (and four earned runs) on Aug. 31, 2014.