After Josiah Gray struggled in a September 5th start against the New York Mets in Nationals Park, giving up seven hits and six earned runs in three innings, his manager Davey Martinez told reporters that he’d noticed some stuff that needed to be addressed before the 23-year-old right-hander took the mound again.
“He had no command, obviously, of his fastball,” Martinez said.
“Everything was arm-side today. His mechanics are a little off, so we’ll talk to him the next couple days, but he’s flying open, his arm slot dropped a lot today. So, we’ll go back this next couple days, talk to him, try to get him back up, get his arm back up, and let him stay closed a little bit, but everything was arm-side today.”
Before the right-hander, acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner deal at the trade deadline, got back out there, Martinez said, they did go over a few of the things they saw so Gray could attempt to get things back on track before taking his next turn in the rotation.
“We talked to him,” Martinez explained before Gray faced the Pittsburgh Pirates. “He had a good bullpen session, we put him on a slow-mo camera, and broke it down for him so he could see, and he threw the ball well in the bullpen, so hopefully that carries over to today.”
Gray struggled again in his September 11th outing, giving up three hits, six walks, and five earned runs in five innings, over which he threw a season-high, 100 pitches, and he talked afterwards about thinking a little too much about his mechanics and his arm slot while he was on the mound.
“I think that’s just something that tonight it sped up on me, and I was like, ‘Man, how do I stop this? How do I stop this?’” Gray said. “And then thinking about, ‘Where’s my arm here? Where’s my body here?’ instead of going out and just throwing the ball in the strike zone. So that’s kind of what tonight was, and it’s going to be something I fix by just getting back to the basics and being completely confident in my abilities and what I can do, because — I’ve done it before, my first five starts, I showed I can do it at this level, so it’s not about trying to find it, I know it’s in there, it’s just going through a little rut right now and just trying to get back to playing baseball and throwing the ball like I can.”
In his first five starts with the Nationals following the deadline deal, Gray put up a 2.89 ERA, a 5.77 FIP, eight walks, 29 Ks, and a .223/.286/.485 line against in 28 IP, over which he gave up eight home runs, but in the three starts which followed, before he took on the Colorado Rockies last night in Nationals Park, the righty had a 12.75 ERA, 9.42 FIP, 10 walks, and 10 Ks in 12 IP, over which he gave up five homers.
Going into last night’s start, Martinez said that Gray had to know how to work on what he could between starts, and then get focused and go out on the mound and pitch.
“Yeah, this is conversations that we had with him, those are the things that he needs to think about the first day and second day after he pitches, and then by that third day, your focus should be on getting ready to compete again,” Martinez said, “and not worry about mechanics, just worry about competing and throwing strikes. All that would happen. And we talk a lot about, hey, we’re going to work on stuff, but yet, when you go out to pitch, all that goes away, you focus on each pitch, and trying to get a hitter out, that’s it, that’s all I want you to worry about.
“So hopefully today, he goes out there and does just that, pitch-to-pitch, work on throwing strikes, and get ahead of hitters. When he gets ahead of hitters, he’s been fantastic.”
Gray fell behind and walked each of the first two Rockies’ hitters he faced in the first game of three in D.C., and gave up a run on an RBI double and one on a sac fly as the visitors got out to an early 2-0 lead.
He then went on a nice run, retiring 11-straight hitters, and it was 6-2 in the Nationals’ favor when Gray issued a two-out walk, his fourth of the game, in the top of the fifth, then gave up a two-run homer to left on an 0-2 slider as the Rockies made it a two-run game with one swing, 6-4.
Gray came back out for the sixth, but gave up a leadoff double and recorded one out before he was lifted in favor of reliever Alberto Baldonado, who surrendered an RBI single on which the inherited runner scored, 6-5, in what ended up being a 9-8 loss when Nationals’ closer Kyle Finnegan blew a save opportunity in the ninth.
Josiah Gray’s Line: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HR, 94 P, 58 S, 3/5 GO/FO.
As for Gray’s outing?
“I thought he threw the ball a lot better today,” Martinez told reporters.
“He looked like he was in sync, for a while there ... those 12-13 batters, his tempo was really good, it was a lot better.
“He walked that one guy before the home run, it seemed like he slowed down a little bit, and that’s something that [pitching coach Jim] Hickey and I noticed right away, and then he gives up the home runs, so we’ll talk to him tomorrow, tell him that when his tempo was good, you were in the zone, you were throwing strikes, you were getting hitters out early.”
“Man, I honestly, I’m just going to take away all the positives,” he said. “Today was so much better than the last three outings before this, and obviously the first, you know, it was a little rough with the two walks and then the double, but even then, I struck out [Trevor] Story, and then I got two flyouts on back-to-back pitches, you know that makes the difference in me getting to the sixth inning. So I’m just going to take the positives today.”
Gray finished the night with 13 swinging strikes (five with his fastball, six with his slider, and two with his curveball), and 15 called strikes (nine with his fastball, four with his slider, and one each with his curveball and changeup). Overall, he said, his stuff was a lot better than it was in the previous few outings.
“Yeah, my stuff tonight was so much better than my last three outings, and that’s the main positive I’m going to take away from tonight and take that into my next start,” Gray said.
“My stuff has been — tonight was around the zone a lot more, and even some of the balls I threw were close pitches and to me they looked like strikes, but going back and looking at video, they’re a ball, maybe a ball and a half off, but that’s what you want.
“I don’t want to continue to miss arm-side high like I had the last couple outings, and my misses were even somewhat competitive today, so that’s what I’ll take away and I know there’s a lot of good. Obviously there’s work to be done and I’ll be the first to say that, but I know that there’s also a lot of good and I’m going to take away the good along with work that needs to be done, and come back next outing and do what I got to do.”