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Washington Nationals 6-1 over Arizona Diamondbacks in day-half of today’s doubleheader in D.C.

Josiah Gray put together another solid start, and Victor Robles came through with a big hit in the Nats’ 6-1 win.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Washington Nationals - Game One Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

You Are Already In Scoring Position At 2B?:

Alcides Escobar, who’s struggled at the plate early this season, but showed some signs of life offensively over the weekend in PNC Park, worked a 10-pitch, leadoff walk in the home half of the third inning in this afternoon’s day half of the Washington Nationals’ twin-bill in D.C., and the veteran shortstop moved up on a sac bunt by Victor Robles, then got thrown out trying to steal third with two out and Juan Soto at the plate, which, not great. You’re in scoring position at second, and Soto’s up. Why, Alcides? Why?

Gray Day:

Both Josiah Gray and his manager, Davey Martinez, noted after the 24-year-old threw five scoreless on 82 pitches against the Braves last week Atlanta, that if it was a bit later in the season, the right-hander would likely have gone deeper into the outing.

“He reiterated this early in the season, we’re not going to push you out there as much,” Gray told reporters after the Nationals’ 3-1 win over the defending World Series champions.

“It will be a different conversation in June, July. But at this point in time now, I’ll accept the five innings and hand it over to the bullpen.”

“A lot of this stuff is based on too about how shortened Spring Training was,” Martinez said, pointing to the abbreviated, three-week ramp-up to the season as the main reason he’s still taking a cautious approach with his starters.

“No matter what you think about them building up, still throwing 90 pitches, you know, the high-leverage situations, all that comes into play, you know, especially these kind of games like that, so getting through, and bringing someone in fresh that they haven’t seen was part of what we were trying to accomplish ... [Gray] kept us in the game, and did great, and we had fresh arms out there with those guys and I wanted to get them in the game.”

In start No. 3 of 2022, Gray tossed two scoreless to start, on 33 pitches, and he retired two batters to start the Arizona Diamondbacks’ third, before Daulton Varsho hit a first-pitch, 94 MPH fastball up high outside out to center field in Nationals Park for a solo home run and a 1-0 D-backs’ lead.

That’s all Gray gave up through five, though his pitch count (and K total) climbed, with the right-hander striking out 8 of 19 batters faced on 82 pitches after he picked up two Ks in a 16-pitch top of the fifth inning.

Gray returned to the mound in the sixth, with a 2-1 lead, and retired Ketel Marte on a fly to left before his manager went to the pen for Sean Doolittle...

Josiah Gray’s Line: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 Ks, 1 HR, 87 P, 50 S, 1/3 GO/FO.

Bumgarner Walks:

Did you know that Juan Soto walked more than he K’d in 2021? It’s true. Soto’s 145 total walks (versus 93 strikeouts), “were the most in a season since Barry Bonds set the MLB record for walks with 232 in 2004,” as the Nationals highlighted in their pregame notes today, adding that he did finish the ‘21 campaign the, “only qualified player with more BB than SO.”

Soto lined out on a first-pitch fastball from lefty Madison Bumgarner the first time up this afternoon, then took a leadoff walk in his second plate appearance against the D-Backs’ starter, giving the Nationals’ 22-year-old slugger 13 walks vs 7 Ks (to that point) early this season.

Nelson Cruz took a free pass from Bumgarner in the next at-bat, but both of them were stranded at the end of the southpaw’s fourth scoreless frame.

Bumgarner walked four in four innings, but held the Nationals’ hitless through 4 2/3, when a dropped pop in short right, off Alcides Escobar’s bat, and an RBI double to left by Victor Robles got the Nationals on the board in two columns, 1-1, and they took the lead when Robles scored a batter later when César Hernández doubled to left as well, 2-1 Washington.

Madison Bumgarner’s Line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 5 Ks, 83 P, 53 S, 7/0 GO/FO.

Bullpen Action:

Sean Doolittle took over for the Nationals with one down and no one on in the top of the sixth inning this afternoon, a half-inning after the home team took a 2-1 lead, and the left-handed reliever worked around a 2-out double to keep the one-run advantage intact.

J.B. Wendelken came on for Arizona in the bottom of the sixth, and gave up back-to-back hits by Nelson Cruz and Josh Bell, but Bell got doubled up off first on a liner to the mound by Keibert Ruiz, leaving it up to Maikel Franco, who singled to center off the right-handed reliever to bring Cruz in from second and make it a 3-1 game in the Nats’ favor after six.

Steve Cishek made quick work of the D-backs in a 17-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh, in which he K’d two batters.

Kyle Finnegan gave up a leadoff walk to pinch hitter Pavin Smith, but got a 4-6-3 DP and a swinging K to complete a quick, 13-pitch eighth.

Oliver Pérez hit Juan Soto to start the Nationals’ half of the eighth inning, and Nelson Cruz reached on catcher’s interference call, then Josh Bell singled to drive Soto in, before Cruz scored on a sac fly by Keibert Ruiz, 5-1 Nats.

Alcides Escobar drove Bell in with a 2-out hit, 6-1.

Austin Voth worked around two singles for a scoreless ninth to end the first game of today’s doubleheader.

Nationals now 5-7