After Max Scherzer tossed six strong and Kyle Finnegan came out of the bullpen with yet another impressive appearance in the seventh inning of Friday night’s 10-2 win on the road in Fenway Park, Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez called upon Ben Braymer, a 26-year-old, 2016 18th Round pick out of Auburn, to make his MLB debut.
“That was awesome to see,” Martinez said after the 6’2’’ left-hander worked around a double by José Peraza in a scoreless, 17-pitch seventh, then struggled in the bottom of the ninth, in which he gave up a leadoff walk, three singles, and a run.
“[Braymer’s] out there doing his thing,” Martinez continued. “I mean, I love giving kids their first opportunity to come up here and play. For me it’s an honor. I did it.
“Watching those guys come up and seeing their facial expressions, and watching him just go out there, and for him, just throwing strikes. It’s nerve-wracking. I can tell.
“You get nervous, but once you get out there, the adrenaline is flowing, and you know what you got to do. It was good to see him go out there and get that first one out of the way.”
Braymer threw 41 pitches total, in 1 1⁄3 IP, 28 of them four-seam fastballs, and mixed in his changeup, curve, and slider.
Was it just like he pictured it all those years he was working his way up through the minors?
“No, definitely not,” Braymer joked, after debuting in a mostly-empty 108-year-old ballpark currently populated by cardboard cutouts of fans during the ongoing pandemic.
“As many times as I thought about this day, I never thought that it would come in such a time of — just such an interesting time in a lot of ways.
“What a cool day to get my feet wet and have my first appearance in the big leagues on Jackie Robinson Day.
“Really humbling and awesome, and to run out with no fans, definitely a little weird, but honestly, I didn’t even think about it.”
Braymer was added to the Nationals’ 40-Man roster this past winter, to protect him from selection in the Rule 5 Draft coming off a 2019 campaign which saw him put up a 2.51 ERA, a 3.37 FIP, 21 walks (2.39 BB/9), and 69 Ks (7.86 K/9) in 13 starts and 79 innings pitched for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators, and a 7.20 ERA, 7.98 FIP, 35 walks (5.25 BB/9), and 47 Ks (7.05 K/9) in 13 starts and 60 IP for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies.
He was called up earlier this week, in the wake of Seth Romero’s injury, so Braymer got time to get acclimated before he was called upon for the first time at the big league level.
“The last few days have been awesome, just being in D.C. and then traveling here with the guys,” Braymer said.
“As far as having a few days to kind of get back in the bullpen and feel out my routine again, was I think a blessing in disguise, because I was able to feel things out and kind of get back to doing a lot of things that I’ve done the first few years of my career, whereas last year was the first time I was a full-time starter all year.”
“It took a couple days to kind of work out the kinks again, and I’ll still have to continue to do that, but I felt pretty good and was able to kind of get back in the swing of things.
“It’s been really good and really exciting and we won tonight, so hopefully keep it going.”
In spite of the fact that he entered the game with a 10-1 lead, once he gave up the leadoff double, Braymer said he was determined to keep that run from coming around, which he did in the eighth.
“Any time somebody gets on base, especially a guy getting an extra base hit to lead off an inning, I think that my first thought was, ‘Alright, let’s bear down even more,’” he explained.
“Not trying to be too fine with things, but like attack with my best stuff, which I would try to do any time and in any situation, but especially that.
“Honestly, didn’t even look at the scoreboard in that situation.
“As far as what my mindset is, I’m going out there and attacking guys as if one run could be the difference.
“Especially, we’ve seen a lot of swings in scores lately, so you can’t take that for granted.
“In my mind, I’m out there protecting a one-run lead and trying to keep those guys off base.”
His debut overall? Braymer said, accurately, he was, “... a little bit all over the place tonight.”
“Probably a mix of nerves and just needed to continue pitching and feeling myself out.
“There were definitely a little nerves involved, but at the end of the day I felt like I went out there and attacked hitters.
“Wasn’t really afraid of the miss or the mistakes, so to say, there were definitely a couple pitches where I nitpicked instead of just challenging those guys, but that’s something that I’ll take with me and continue to work on moving forward and just I think a big part of my game is just challenging guys with my stuff in the zone and not really being too nitpicky, and just getting after guys and throwing all three pitches over the plate, burying them when needed and expanding when needed, so on and so forth, so I think I did a little too much of that in the second inning, but overall it was my first one, hopefully have many more and learn from it and improve upon it and put my best foot forward.”
Braymer made a good first impression, but the numbers game got him on Saturday when the Nationals signed Brock Holt and optioned the left-hander back to Fredericksburg and the Alternate Training Site to make room on the roster.