The Nationals saw what was likely their most complete performance of the year Tuesday night to open up a three-game series with the Mets, as Josiah Gray had what might have been the start of his career and the offense gave the runs it needed.
Gray went six innings while striking out nine, yielding just four hits and a walk in his shutout start. Mason Thompson then served up just one hit across his three-inning save while striking out four of 10 faced.
“He really attacked with his fastball down. I think he surprised them a lot just throwing his fastball down for strikes. He’s been throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes and then he uses his cutter and slider from that. I think, honestly, the key for him is the fastball. We talk about it all the time: Fastball in the strike zone, keeping it down, everything else works for him. So what a great, great day, man.”— Dave Martinez said postgame
Gray has been flirting with his new pitch, the cutter, more and more as the season goes on. Hitters’ statistics on the cutter have been rather less ideal, but tonight, Gray threw a season-high 14 cutters that generated 10 swings (five fouls, three whiffs).
“I think we’re on the same page in terms of you early-count fastballs, late-count fastballs, late-count breaking balls. We were in sync today, and to do it against a lineup like that is a lot of fun and it kind of gives you that support and that confidence for next time.”— Catcher Keibert Ruiz said postgame
Getting the offense started was Ruiz, as he lifted a solo homer over the right-center field wall to put the Nats ahead, 1-0 — which, it could have been a two-run lead had Joey Meneses not been caught trying to extend his single into a double into the previous at-bat.
However, Meneses later made up for it. In the following inning, after both Alex Call and Jeimer Candelario walked, he lined an RBI single up the middle to give Washington a 2-0 lead.
The Nats then rallied for three more runs in the sixth, including another big hit from Luis Garcia — who followed up Victor Robles and Call singles with a double into right-center that drove in both. Meneses later added his second RBI of the day with a single to make it a 5-0 lead.
“We put the ball in play. We took our walks. That’s part of who we are,” Martinez said. “I’d like to see us extend some of those innings, bases loaded again, just to see if we can drive some more runs in. But that’s going to come.
“We’re doing better on just understanding who we are as hitters, swinging at the pitches that are strikes. And we’re going to continue to get better. But that’s it. These guys got to take their walks, we got to keep putting the ball in play, and they did that tonight.”— Martinez later added
And, from Gray’s perspective — a pitcher who, as MASN notes, Gray was the eighth pitcher in baseball history to get one or fewer runs of support across his first four starts of the season — seeing the offense come alive through Meneses, Garcia. and Ruiz was rather enjoyable for the right-handed arm.
“I know these guys have been clawing away to try and give me run support the whole year. To see them do it early and to see them do it late there is a lot of fun. For them to go out and score five runs is awesome. I know they’re gonna continue to do it, continue to go out there and support us because we’re all going to fight and do our jobs. So it was a lot of fun today to see them go out there and swing the bats and me kind of pull my weight and keep throwing zeros.”— Gray said of the offense after his six-inning outing
Gray, the native of New Rochelle, NY, got to pitch in front of his hometown folk and didn’t disappoint.
“Being able to go see family and friends is gonna be that much more fun to, you know, embrace, and they all got to see a good game today. So it’s that much more special to get my first win here in New York, on the season and in New York as well, is pretty cool and definitely one I’m going to enjoy.”— Gray later remarked
Nats look ahead to the rest of the series, as taking just one out of the next two will give them their second consecutive series victory.
Wednesday @ 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP MacKenzie Gore vs. RHP Kodai Senga
Thursday @ 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Trevor Williams vs. LHP Joey Lucchessi