Josiah Gray pitched five scoreless innings on 101 pitches when he faced Miami on June 8 at the home of the Marlins, part of an impressive five-start streak in the past month-plus in which the right-hander 24-year-old had put up a 1.24 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 12 walks and 31 Ks in 29 total innings, with opposing batters putting up a .155/.250/.243 line on him during this sequence.
“He throws very well”, GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in DC’s Sports Junkies this last Wednesday.
“He throws great. He is great.”
“He throws very well. We are happy to see his progress with each start. He gains confidence. He participates more often in change. He throws two different break balls, his curveball and his slider, which is his go-to pitch, and he really competes and beats the strike zone. So he hits the strike zone and he goes further in games, gives us a chance to win it, and he throws really well, and I just like to see the progression of these young players and young pitchers coming forward. It’s kind of refreshing to see guys improve at the major league level, which is often hard to do.
“He’s been outstanding,” the 42-year-old and 18-year-old veteran Nelson Cruz said after Gray retired nine of seven innings on the road in Texas.
“He’s been the most consistent pitcher we’ve had, then, and today was a good example of that. He was distributing, throwing the lands where he wanted, it was nice to see that.
Gray is still young, of course, and relatively experienced, and there will be bumps in the road, like his outing against the Marlins on Friday.
How did his manager sum up the 5 2⁄3-inning, 10 hits, six-run start against the Fish?
“I’m going to break it down to nine hitters he was up, six punches, seven hitters he fell behind, five guys who hit base, one home run and a few hits,” he said. Davey Martinez after the 6-3 loss for the Nationals.
“So again, when he’s working up front he’s really good, and we’ve seen that in the past, so we have to have him keep working up front, throwing strikes, getting ahead of the hitters and putting them away.
“Today you saw some of the success that they had. It wasn’t like he was throwing the ball terribly, but he fell behind, so, and like I said, on a bunch of hitters, and that’s where they beat him, but we gon’ get him forward, [pitching coach Jim] Hickey is going to talk to him about a few things this week and then get him back on track.
Gray fell behind Brian Anderson and gave up a first home run on a fastball 2-1 on the first at-bat of the third, and Joey Wendle and Garrett Cooper both made runs on 2-shots 1 later in round three. Jon Berti hit a sack fly on a full pitch in the fifth and threw a run on a 2-1 pitch in the sixth.
“It wasn’t good,” Gray said when evaluating his own outing, quoted by Andrew Golden of the Washington Post.
“Just a lot of – not so much hard contact but a lot of contact. They made contact on well-placed pitches but also on badly-placed pitches.
“The misfires weren’t horrible, he was just missing,” added Martinez. “And when you’re 2-1, 3-1, 2-0, and then all of a sudden you have to throw the ball over home plate, and that’s what happened to him today.”
“You have to throw the ball more for strikes,” Martinez continued, stating the obvious when asked what changes Gray or any starter can make if they continue to fall behind. “When he’s up front, he can bury his slider, he can elevate his fastball, he can do a lot of different things.
“When you’re trailing you really have to get the ball in the zone, and good hitters, good hitters when you do that, they’re not going to run out of mistakes.”
“We’ve seen that before,” Martinez continued when asked about patterns when Gray falls behind the count, “when he’s ahead of the count – I keep track of every game with him. , and when he’s up front, he’s mean. I mean, he really is. He’s got good put away throws, so we have to get him to keep working up front, stay up front.
“And the other thing too is getting early outs, don’t work deep into every batter’s count, when he gets ahead, 0-1, he can still get a good swing on a ball that he wants to throw.
“And he did, and that’s where you see the efficiency, the efficiency on the pitch, where he goes deep in games, but like I said, we’re going to bring him back to that and come back. in five days and see where he is.”