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Washington Nationals’ Josiah Gray ended up looking like pitcher Nats thought they got in deal with LA Dodgers...

Josiah Gray bunches, two good runs with a rough stretch in the middle, but he finished strong in his first season in the majors...

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Josiah Gray wrapped up his post-trade deadline run with the Washington Nationals with a solid six-inning outing against the Boston Red Sox which saw the 23-year-old righty throw 90 pitches to the 22 batters he faced, giving up three hits, two walks, and one earned run, while striking out seven in a 5-3 loss in which he received no decision.

“That was one of my better starts,” Gray told reporters after his 12th appearance with the Nationals following the trade deadline deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers which brought Gray, 23-year-old catcher Keibert Ruiz, 25-year-old outfielder Donovan Casey, and 23-year-old right-hander Gerardo Carillo to Washington’s organization.

“Josiah was awesome,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said after the next-to-last game of the season for the Nationals.

“I mean, he was — like I said, I know Josiah, and he competes, but I learned a lot about him, and he’s going to be okay, he really is.”

Gray had some early success with the Nationals, he struggled for a stretch, then finished strong as he explained after his final start of the season.

“If you can put my season with the Nats into bunches, you know, the first five were great,” he said, “the four after that were not great, and then the last three were awesome.

“So obviously it’s about closing the gap on the middle starts.”

In his first five appearances with the Nationals, Gray posted a 2.89 ERA, a 5.78 FIP, and a .223/.286/.485 line against in 28 IP, then in the “middle” starts, he put up an 11.42 ERA, with an 8.36 FIP, and .294/.405/.647 line against in 17 1⁄3 IP, before he finished up the year with three outings in which he had a 3.12 ERA, a 2.94 FIP, and a .203/.282/.328 line against in 17 1⁄3 IP.

“Jo-Jo has been great,” GM Mike Rizzo said before the season finale in late September. “I like the way he attacks the strike zone, he’s kind of made an adjustment as far as his early starts, and then he struggled for several starts, and he kind of got back to what made him the prospect that he was [when we got him from the Dodgers].”

The experience at the major league level was big for him, Gray said. He debuted in the big leagues in July with LA, ten days before he was traded for the second time in his career.

A draft pick by the Cincinnati Reds in 2018, he was traded to the Dodgers that winter, and he worked his way up to the majors this year before coming to the Nationals.

What did he learn and how did he grow as a pitcher with an extended stint in the club’s big league rotation?

“I think I just continue to know myself and the hitters better,” he said.

“This game is as difficult as it gets, but also it’s simple. You have to continue to attack guys, and today especially I’m wondering how many first-pitch strikes I threw, because I felt like I was in a lot of 0-1, or 1-1 counts, so yeah, just learning hitters and continuing to attack the strike zone is so much more important. I don’t think early on in the season I took as much advantage of that as I should have, because sure you can talk about it and you can think about it, but until you’re truly putting in that work and truly putting a conscious effort towards it, you might not see the result. So seeing that today, with the first pitch strikes, and just commanding counts and things like that it definitely paid off from two months ago till today.”

His goals for this offseason?

“Just come back ready for Spring Training,” Gray said. “Just continue to train, continue to throw, continue to develop my breaking balls, continue to develop my changeup, continue to develop my fastball, just everything like that. Just getting ready to throw however many innings, I want to hit that 200 inning mark, that’s ... to me, but I’m going to prepare like that’s something I want to do and something that I’m looking forward to doing, so just continuing to prepare, and get ready for next year, because I know it’s going to be a fun one, we’re going to have a really good ballclub and I’m going to be making meaningful starts in September and October and that’s all I can ask for.”