- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - Joe Ross had a special guest in the stands Saturday when he made his big league debut. Too bad he couldn’t match that fan’s feat from a night earlier.

Ross pitched effectively in his first start but, once again, the Nationals failed to figure out the right-hander in a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.

The 22-year-old Ross allowed three runs on six hits over five innings and struck out four without a walk. He threw 91 pitches as his older brother, San Diego Padres pitcher Tyson Ross, watched from the stands.

Tyson Ross pitched five innings for the win Friday night at Cincinnati. The Padres gave him permission to travel to Washington, though he didn’t let his younger brother know about his plans.

“It was awesome. … He surprised me coming out,” said Joe Ross. “I didn’t know until just before the game. That was kind of extra incentive, knowing he’s watching me in the stands.”

With starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister on the disabled list, the Nationals called on Ross (0-1) to make his debut.

Ross, who was 2-2 with a 2.81 ERA at Double-A Harrisburg, retired the first nine Cubs, but allowed a run in the fourth and two in the fifth.

“I think he threw the ball well,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said. “He was unfazed by the magnitude of it.”

A first-round pick by the Padres in 2011, Ross was acquired from San Diego last winter as part of a three-team trade involving Tampa Bay.

Hammel (5-2) improved to 9-0 with a 3.01 ERA in 11 starts against the Nationals.

Working with an effective slider that left Washington batters chasing pitches, Hammel allowed two runs on five hits in eight-plus innings, striking out seven and walking two. He departed after Bryce Harper hit his 19th homer of the season to open the ninth.

Dexter Fowler had two hits and scored twice. Anthony Rizzo and Jonathan Herrera each had two hits and drove in a run for Chicago.

Wilson Ramos also homered for the Nationals.

After Hector Rondon walked Anthony Rendon, Pedro Strop came on and recorded his second save.

Ramos slammed Hammel’s first pitch of the second inning to left-center for his fourth home run. Washington didn’t score again until the ninth.

Asked for his secret of success against Washington, Hammel joked, “If I told you I have to kill you. He added, “I do love pitching in this stadium.”

Chicago tied it in the fourth with three hits. Kris Bryant’s smash to third deflected off Rendon for an RBI single.

The Cubs went ahead 3-1 in the fifth when Fowler singled home Herrera and scored on double by Rizzo.

ZIP FOR ZIMMERMANN

The Nationals couldn’t convert after a leadoff double in the eighth. Hammel fanned Ryan Zimmerman, 1 for 21 over his last six games, for the final out.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: Strasburg (neck tightness) threw his first bullpen session since going on the disabled list May 30. Williams said he threw 30 pitches, using all of his pitches, and “came out of it feeling good.” INF Yunel Escobar was out of the lineup for the second straight game. He was scheduled to take batting practice to test his sore right wrist.

UP NEXT

Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (1-2, 3.99) allowed a run over seven innings in a no-decision against Washington on May 26.

Nationals: RHP Jordan Zimmerman (5-2) hasn’t lost since April 18, winning four straight decisions and lowering his ERA from 6.14 to 2.88.

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