Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz, the top prospects acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the deal that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner out west, started together as pitcher and catcher in the nation’s capital tonight, in the series opener with the Philadelphia Phillies in Nationals Park, but unfortunately it didn’t go too well for either of Washington’s 23-year-old prospects.
Gray gave up seven hits, three walks, and six runs, all earned, in 4.0 IP, and Ruiz finished his debut in D.C. 1 for 4 at the plate in a 7-4 loss to the Nationals’ NL East rivals.
Gray vs Philly: In his first start for the Nationals following the trade from the Dodgers that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to LA, Josiah Gray held the Phillies to a run on four hits and two walks, striking out two in a five-inning, 71-pitch outing in his new home in D.C.
In five starts total since the deal, the 23-year-old right-hander had a 2.89 ERA, eight walks, 29 Ks, and a .223/.286/.485 line against in 28 IP.
Last time out before going up against the Phillies again, Gray went six innings against Miami in which he gave up five hits, three walks, and two runs, striking out seven in a 91-pitch start on the road.
Gray said after that outing that though he wasn’t at his best, he did what he could to try to keep the Nationals in the game.
“Obviously it wasn’t my best game, but ... it’s definitely encouraging to go out there and not have your best stuff, but also keep your team in a position to win a ballgame, and at the end of the day that’s what it’s about,” he said.
Facing the Phillies for the second time this season tonight, Gray fell behind early, giving up a leadoff, infield single off Odubel Herrara’s bat, and one out later, a two-run homer off the bat of Bryce Harper, who hit a hanging, 2-2 curve into the right field bullpen for his 26th HR of 2021 and a 2-0 lead. A walk to Andrew McCutchen and a single by Brad Miller followed, with McCutchen taking third on Miller’s hit, and a grounder to first, on which Josh Bell took the out at second, brought McCutchen in for a 3-0 Phillies’ lead.
It was a 3-2 game in the third when Gray gave up a leadoff single by Bryce Harper, a one-out walk to Brad Miller, and a base-loading walk to Freddy Galvis, all of whom scored in the next at bat when Ronald Torreyes hit a long fly to left that Yadiel Hernández tracked all the way to the wall but couldn’t catch. Three runs scored as Hernández collected it, 6-2 Phillies.
Gray gave up a leadoff single by Odubel Herrera in the top of the fourth, but got a 4-6-3 DP and a swinging K in what ended up a 10-pitch frame that was his last of the night...
Josiah Gray’s Line: 4.0 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 83 P, 54 S, 4/0 GO/FO.
Wheeler vs Washington: In five starts against the Nationals this season, before facing them a sixth time tonight, Phillies’ right-hander Zack Wheeler had a 4.11 ERA (14 ER in 30 2⁄3 IP), 29 Ks, and seven walks, with Nats’ hitters putting up a .276/.318/.423 line against him.
The last two of the five starts came in back-to-back outings on July 29th in Citizens Bank Park and August 3rd in Nationals Park, where he was back on the mound tonight.
In that previous appearance in D.C., Wheeler, 31, gave up eight hits and four runs in 7 1⁄3 IP in a 5-4 win for the Phillies.
Tonight, the Philly righty took the mound with a 3-0 lead, but struggled to get through the bottom of the first, issuing back-to-back-to-back, two-out walks to Juan Soto, Josh Bell, and Yadiel Hernández, which brought catcher Keibert Ruiz up for his first at bat with the Nats, but he popped out to short on a 97 MPH 0-1 fastball to end the threat and a 31-pitch bottom of the first by Wheeler.
Carter Kieboom and Luis García hit back-to-back singles off Wheeler in the first two at bats of the Nationals’ second, and Josiah Gray bunted García into scoring position at second to set up Lane Thomas with an RBI opportunity he cashed in with a soft fly to short left. Adrián Sánchez stepped in next and sent a grounder to short, on which the Phillies got a force out at second but couldn’t get the double play, 3-2 Philly, when García scored, though that was all the Nationals got on Wheeler in a 20-pitch second.
Given a 6-2 lead to work with after two and a half in D.C., Wheeler retired the first two hitters he faced in the bottom of the third, but Carter Kieboom crushed a 2-1 sinker and hit a one to left that traveled 400 feet and over the fence, 6-3.
Juan Soto doubled to right-center on a first-pitch fastball from Wheeler in the bottom of the fifth, moved up on a Josh Bell groundout, and scored from third on a wild pitch, 7-4 Phillies.
Back on the mound in the sixth, Wheeler retired the side in order in an eight-pitch frame.
Zack Wheeler’s Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 95 P, 60 S, 6/1 GO/FO.
New Guys: Davey Martinez’s club had Josiah Gray starting with Keibert Ruiz catching, Lane Thomas in center, Patrick Murphy and Mason Thompson in the bullpen, and Riley Adams as the backup catcher on the bench. All of the above were acquired in deadline deals, and all of them are up on the major league roster now, which is not a common thing.
“It’s pretty nice,” Martinez said. “Some of these guys, and the way these guys have played, they’ve done well. And I know it’s a big transition for them.
“They’re coming from one team to a new team, they’re young, expectations are high, for me, it’s just treating them the way I treat everybody else, with a lot of respect, and understand that I know the game sometimes is not easy, but it’s going to be a learning process, and that’s exactly what I tell them, ‘Hey, we’re going to learn together. I want to learn you, you’re going to learn us. You’re going to learn what we want you to do, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.’ And you deserve to be here.”
Alcides Escobar Injured: Alcides Escobar fouled a fastball off his left kneecap early in the game, and left the field with help, unable to put any weight on the leg. Not good. Should be more info in Davey Martinez’s post game Zoom call.
Bullpen Action: Patrick Murphy took over for the Nationals in a 6-3 game in the fifth, and gave up a no-doubter of a one-out home run on a 2-1 changeup to Brad Miller that Miller crushed, sending one out to center field to make it 7-3. No. 14 for Miller.
Murphy returned to the mound in the top of the sixth and worked around a two-out error by Luis García for a scoreless frame.
Ryne Harper worked around a one-out single for a scoreless top of the seventh.
Connor Brogdon took over for the Phillies in the bottom of the seventh and retired the side in order.
Harper tossed another scoreless inning in the top of the eighth.
Brogdon gave up a leadoff single by Josh Bell and a one-out single by Keibert Ruiz in the bottom of the eighth, so the Phils went to the pen for Archie Bradley vs. Carter Kieboom with two on and one out. Kieboom K’d chasing a 94 MPH 3-2 fastball up high. Luis García stepped in next, and lined out to left to end the threat.
Andres Machado worked a scoreless ninth to keep it a three-run game.
José Alvarado came on for the save opportunity in the home-half of the ninth and gave up a leadoff double by Ryan Zimmerman, who sent an 0-2 curveball by first base and out to right field. Lane Thomas walked in the next at bat, to bring the tying run to the plate, in the form of Riley Adams, who K’d trying to check his swing on a 2-2 cutter. Juan Soto? With one on, two out? Swinging bunt and a force at second, but no double play.
So it was up to Josh Bell, who K’d swinging with runners on the corners to end it.
Final Score: 7-4 Phillies
Nationals now 55-75