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Washington Nationals’ Josiah Gray impresses again in win over Toronto Blue Jays...

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Josiah Gray gave up two solo home runs in six innings of work and worked his way out of a late-outing jam in a solid start against the Blue Jays...

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Davey Martinez limited Josiah Gray to five innings and 82 pitches in a solid outing in Atlanta earlier this month in which the righty, (acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers as one of the four players who came back in the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner deadline trade), struck out ten of the twenty-two batters he faced.

It was the second start for Gray with Washington’s Nationals, following a five-inning and 71-pitch outing in the 23-year-old’s debut with his new team, and he said afterwards that in a normal season he knew he’d have a longer leash at this point.

“I’m going to continue to get built up and do that over time,” Gray explained to reporters in his post game Zoom call from Truist Park, “so it was the same conversation [as after his first start for the Nats], like, ‘Great job, you kept us in this game, and we’re just going to build on it from there.’ So, I completely agree with the decision.

“Obviously, if this year was a normal year, I’d be built up to 100+ pitches, but obviously coming off the two-month injury and this only being my third or fourth outing in the big leagues you have to continue to work up.”

Gray dealt with an impingement in his right shoulder earlier this season, when he was still with LA, but he said he was just happy to be healthy and back on the mound in the majors now as part of the Nationals’ rotation.

“I’m getting the ball, I’m getting the starts every fifth day,” Gray said, “... so that means just as much, so I’m staying consistent that way and I’m going to build off that and continue to build the pitch count as well.”

Gray went six innings on 87 pitches in start No. 3 for the Nationals, and going into his fourth outing, Martinez talked about what he was looking to get from his starter.

“Yeah, I mean, we’re just going to — with him right now it’s based on start-to-start. But we’ll see how he goes, see where he’s at during the game, how many high-leverage innings, how many pitches he throws, and then we’ll go from there. But for me, I don’t want to push him too much. Like I said, he hasn’t pitched that much, but right now he’s anywhere between maybe 90 to 95 to maybe max 100 pitches, but we’ll see how it goes though today.”

Gray retired the side in order in a nine-pitch first against the Toronto Blue Jays, and he came back out for the top of the second with a 3-0 lead, courtesy of a Juan Soto homer, and gave up a leadoff home run by Teoscar Hernández on a 2-2 curve at the top of the zone that went out to left and into the visitor’s bullpen in Nationals Park.

Marcus Semien hit a 2-0 fastball out to left field for the second solo home run off of Gray by the Jays with two out in the top of the third.

Gray held it there through five, with 64 pitches overall on the day, but the Jays put two men on with two out in the top of the sixth inning, with Hernández doubling with two down, and taking third on a Lourdes Gurriel single, before stranding both runners when Gray got a pop-up by Breyvic Valera to end a 23-pitch frame which left him 87 pitches overall in what was an 8-5 win in the end.

Josiah Gray’s Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 2 HRs, 87 P, 55 S, 4/4 GO/FO.

“He was good,” Martinez said after the win. “He kept us in the ballgame. he was real good. I love watching him go out there and compete. He’s got a great plan. Him and [catcher] Riley [Adams] worked good together today, and he gets through innings [without] a high pitch count, which is great to see.”

Martinez also said he liked what he saw from Gray when he worked through the late-outing jam in the sixth.

“I wanted to see what he does in high-leverage situations, that’s part of it,” Martinez said.

“And he got through it, and you could see the emotions after he got that out, he was pretty pumped up when he was coming off the mound, so it’s good to see, but I knew this after watching his first couple outings, that he just wants to go out there and compete, but it’s good to see him go out there and have a little bit of struggles, I don’t want him to struggle a whole lot, and get through that inning and feel good about himself coming out of the game right there.”

“That was really big for me,” Gray said of escaping the sixth inning jam. “Just let out that emotion because that’s a big out, that’s a big league hitter, got him out in a big spot with a runner in scoring position, kept us with the lead, and did that for the team, and that’s all I got to do and every time I’m able to do that that makes it that much more exciting, and that pumps me up because I know it keeps us in a good spot to go out and win a ballgame.”

Was there any thought to sending Gray back out for the seventh? He was up to 87 pitches, with a 3-2 lead at that point.

“No, I definitely — we were looking at everything and he pitched well for us. If I send him out there, he’s only going to go maybe one hitter,” Martinez said.

“The sixth inning started out great with two strikeouts,” Gray said of his final inning of work, which Martinez and Co. let him work through without a mound visit to see how he’d react to the situation, “... but then got into a little trouble with the double and then an infield single, so I think — I wasn’t even thinking about a mound visit at that time, I just knew that I had Breyvic Valera up, I got to get him out, keep us with the lead and do my job, so that’s all, no thoughts about a mound visit, no thoughts about anything other than getting that hitter out and keeping us with the lead in that sixth inning.”

“I wanted to see how he reacted, we both did,” Martinez said of how he and pitching coach Jim Hickey approached that situation. “And like I said, him and Riley did a great job of getting out of a situation after having two outs, and he did fine, he was poised, he made his pitches when he needed to make his pitches then and he got out of a jam, so it was great to see.”