Austin Voth made eight starts and one relief appearance for the Nationals in 2019, posting a 3.30 ERA, a 3.79 FIP, 13 walks (2.68 BB/9), 44 Ks, (9.07 K/9), and a .212/.287/.397 line against in 41 1⁄3 innings pitched.
Voth earned the fifth spot in Washington’s rotation this Spring, impressing the Nats’ brass in Spring Training 1.0 and 2.0.
When he spoke to reporters 10 days prior to Opening Day, Voth said that in spite of the work he did while baseball was shut down from mid-March through early May, there was still work to do as he built up for the 60-game 2020 regular season.
“I want to build up,” Voth said when asked what boxes he still had to check to know he’d be ready.
“I haven’t really built up to five innings or anything like that,” he explained. “I think we’re all in the same boat. I think I’ll get to four innings my next outing, but just seeing more batters for the most part, and having more live at bats, I think that’s the main thing.
“Having to shut down and start, and shut down, it’s like I just want to be able to see more live batters and be able to throw against batters rather than just throwing to our hitters, kind of get myself prepared or in the zone for the regular season.”
Voth’s first regular season start of 2020 began with a scoreless top of the first against the Toronto Blue Jays in the nation’s capital, but he left a 1-1 slider up for Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. in the first at bat of the second, and the Jays’ slugger hit it over the left field fence into the visitor’s bullpen in Nationals Park for a solo home run and a 1-0 lead.
Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. hit the second solo homer of the game (and the Blue Jays’ sixth of the series) out to right on an 0-1 fastball from Voth in the top of the fourth, a half-inning after the Nationals had tied it up, 2-1 Toronto.
It was 3-1 Jays after Joe Panik singled with one down in the fifth, moved up on an error on a two-out grounder to second off Reese McGuire’s bat, and scored on an RBI hit by Teoscar Hernández.
Voth got out of the fifth, but he was done for the night at that point.
Austin Voth’s Line: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 Ks, 2 HRs, 70 P, 45 S, 6/8 GO/FO.
“Voth pitched well. He kept us in the ballgame,” manager Davey Martinez said after what ended up a 5-1 loss.
“Thought I threw well,” Voth said, offering his own assessment of his outing. “Thought I was a little bit off, thought the offspeed pitches today were not as sharp as they needed to be, but it was my first start, thought it went decently well. I just made a few mistakes and kind of paid with those fastballs middle of the plate.”
The pitches that went out, Voth said, “... were just mistake pitches, honestly. Both pitches were supposed to be glove side and I had them run back over the plate and those are two good hitters and when that happens they’re going to make good swings, they’re going to do damage.”
Voth’s fastball-heavy pitch selection, throwing 46 fastballs out of 70 pitches total, was an attempt to stick to the scouting report the Nationals put together on Jays’ hitters.
“A lot of these guys, fastballs up are something that we were trying to attack,” he explained, “trying to get easy pop flies, or trying to — kind of get their aggressiveness, or just trying to get easy outs. And up in the strike zone, we know they’re going to swing, they’re aggressive. That’s kind of what I was just attacking and I tended to use it a little more.”
The good thing, for now at least, after a few years of moving up and down and starting and relieving at times, is knowing that he’s part of the Nationals’ starting rotation, and will be on the mound again the next time his turn in the rotation comes around. How does it fell to be the fifth starter?
“It feels great,” Voth said. “Been working to be in the rotation for so long and now that I am the fifth starter, it just feels amazing. I just feel like I belong.”