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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez and Josiah Gray on mound visits; Gray on pitch mix + grip issues for reliever...

Highlights from the Nationals’ media availability on Wednesday afternoon...

No Mound Visit Explained:

With the Washington Nationals up 3-2 in the top of the sixth on Wednesday afternoon in the nation’s capital, Josiah Gray took the mound and retired the first two batters he faced, but in the next at bat, Teoscar Hernández doubled on an 0-1 fastball that ended up middle-middle and was lined to center field. Lourdes Gurriel sent a 2-2 slider rolling slowly towards third in the at bat that followed, and Nats’ third baseman Carter Kieboom put it in his pocket rather than throwing late to first or trying to get back to third before Hernández arrived at the bag.

In a one-run game, in what was likely his last inning of work, you might expect the Nationals’ pitching coach Jim Hickey to come out for a visit with the 23-year-old starter at that point, but manager Davey Martinez and Hickey let Gray and catcher Riley Adams work it out themselves, and the right-hander popped up Breyvic Valera and stranded both runners.

“I wanted to see how he reacted, we both did,” Martinez said when he was asked if he’d thought about sending Hickey out. “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.”

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

If they felt like they needed to go out there, the skipper said, he would have sent Hickey out.

“If we need to make a mound visit we will, but we just want to watch him and watch what he does and how he reacts to different situations. He’s been good. He’s been really good. Like I said, he understands when to slow the game down, and we talked to him a lot about that in certain situations, things will start speeding up, just take a deep breath and start slowing everything down and he does really well with that.”

Gray said after the game that he appreciated the show of faith from his manager in letting him work his way out of trouble, and the way the team has supported him since he joined the organization.

“It’s been great, I think they’re making me go out there and make pitches for myself,” he told reporters.

“Obviously, whenever they feel the need they’ll come out and talk to me, give me a quick breather or quick pep talk but other than that everything has been great, and obviously the sixth inning started out great with two strikeouts, 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.”

Gray’s Pitch Mix:

Overall on the season in 2021, Josiah Gray has thrown 53.5% fastballs, 25.1% curves, 18.5% sliders, and 2.9% changeups, but in Wednesday’s game, his slider usage ended up at 34%, with the right-hander throwing sliders for 30 of his 87 total pitches, with 16 swings on it, and 10 swinging strikes, as well as three called strikes.

So... we wondered, was his slider particularly sharp? Was his catcher leaning on it because it was working? Or was it maybe something they saw in scouting reports that made them think it would work well against the Jays’ hitters?

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

“Yeah, I’m sure it was a culmination of things,” Gray said, “and Riley [Adams] calls a good game and he saw we were having a lot of success with it, so he called it a lot, that’s probably what it all came down to, I’m not afraid to throw any pitch that he calls down there, I think I shook him off maybe two or three times, but any time he calls down a pitch, I’m going to go with it, and give my best effort with it and have full confidence with it. So some days it’s the curveball, some days it’s the heater, some days it’s the slider, as it was today, so that’s great and I owe that all to Riley for calling that and seeing that in their swings, and getting me through that sixth inning.”

We also asked if he was taking advantage of all the data, and the analytics that are available for big league pitchers these days to really dig in to how his stuff is working now that he’s in the majors?

“Yeah, I try to as much as I can,” Gray said. “Between starts [I] look at video and movement patterns and things like that, but the interesting thing is we can look at the pitch movement in-between innings so I always try to go in-between innings and just highlight a few pitches that I just previously threw that half-inning and see what they did and the metrics behind that, so it’s been awesome getting to dive into the data and kind of just sharing my knowledge with some of my teammates and kind of just expanding everyone’s knowledge on the data and information.”

Grip Don’t Work:

Andres Machado walked two batters in his first 16 appearances and 17 IP coming out of the Nationals’ bullpen this season, but in Wednesday afternoon’s game, the 28-year-old reliever gave up a pair of two-out walks around a wild pitch before Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez got another arm [Kyle Finnegan] out of the ‘pen to help get out of the inning.

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

What was going on with Machado?

“He couldn’t grip the ball,” Martinez said, “... the balls were — I actually grabbed the ball from him on the mound and they were slippery, so I told [Kyle] Finnegan right away, that he probably didn’t want to throw that ball, and he threw it out right away, but [Machado] was having trouble gripping the ball today.”