Josiah Gray gave up eight hits, two walks, and four earned runs in four innings on the hill in his 2022 debut, but in his second and third outings combined, the 24-year-old right-hander allowed just four hits, five walks, and one earned run, over 10 1⁄3 IP.
Gray tossed five scoreless in his second start, and gave up just the one run in 5 1⁄3 innings in start No. 3, with his manager, Davey Martinez, telling reporters as good as he was, he’ll have to be more efficient going forward if he wants to go deeper in his outings.
“Pitch count got up there, but he kept their hitters off-balance, he made good pitches when he had to,” Martinez explained, “but like we always talk about, he wants to go deeper in the games, but when you’re in the fifth inning with 80-something pitches already, I thought that was it for him.”
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo, who acquired Gray (along with catcher Keibert Ruiz, minor league pitcher Gerardo Carrillo, and outfielder Donovan Casey) in a trade which sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the LA Dodgers last July 30th, told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last week he’s seeing progress from the 24-year-old right-hander every time out.
“He’s making progress,” Rizzo said. “We see a little bit of progress each time he goes out there, he kind of does something that we go over in the meetings, [and] he’s a student of the game, and he’s making good, slow progress.”
Josiah Gray, Winner by KO (82mph Curveball).— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 27, 2022
9th K thru 5 pic.twitter.com/JH2cY8Ewcd
Rizzo also commented on the pitch counts for Gray so far this season.
“I think at this point we’re comfortable going somewhere around 100, 85 to 100 pitches, I think is very reasonable to expect now,” he said. “Davey is going to always do what’s right for the pitcher, leave them with a good taste in their mouth, and when he sees the first time that the kid is going to struggle, he’s going to grab them and try to get them out of there.”
“[Gray’s] curveball was really good yesterday,” the GM added, “... his velocity was where it’s supposed to be, 93-95, and for the most part hit his spots, and for me that’s the key [with these] young starters and their progression, is consistency of fastball command, and when they have it they pitch well and they’ll pitch deep into games, and when they don’t, they’re going to struggle.”
“The strike zone is the key for him,” Martinez said before Gray went up against the Miami Marlins last night in the nation’s capital.
“He’s got swing and miss stuff. The big key with him is when he’s ahead in the count 0-2, 1-2, it’s that kill pitch. That put-away pitch. Where he can’t allow the hitters to get back in the count. A lot of times, he’s 0-2, 1-2, he goes 2-2, 3-2, and then you’ll see the walk, or the two-out, four-pitch walk. This is something that we talk to him about, but his stuff is good, and I always reiterate with him how good his stuff is, that he doesn’t have to be perfect on every pitch, he’s just got to make sure he throws strikes and keeps the ball up-and-down, not side-to-side.”
“But he’s been pitching well,” the fifth-year skipper added, “and I tell him, I said, ‘It’s about controlling the strike zone, pitching deeper in games,’ with him.
“Not allowing yourself to throw 10-12-15 extra pitches when you don’t need to and that will get you deeper into games.”
Before start No. 4, the Nationals decided to give Gray extra rest, so he waited two extra days to take the mound, rather than go in Sunday’s series finale with the San Francisco Giants.
Gray was efficient early against the Miami Marlins on a cold, rainy night in Nationals Park, completing three scoreless on just 42 pitches, and working around two hits and one walk, with five Ks from 12 hitters faced.
In the top of the fourth, however, Gray struggled, giving up a leadoff walk to Jesús Sánchez, a one-out single by Garrett Cooper, and then a three-run home run to right, by Joey Wendle, which put the Marlins up 3-0 on Gray and the Nationals.
Gray retired the Marlins in order in a 13-pitch fifth, after the Nationals got on the board with a run in the bottom of the fourth, and he picked up two Ks, for nine total from 22 batters on 78 overall pitches.
Gray retired the Marlins in order in the fifth, after his teammates put a run up in the bottom of the fourth, and he picked up two Ks, for nine total from 22 batters.
In the sixth, the starter put two on, picked up his 10th K (from 26 batters faced), but then gave up a two-out line drive toward short by Jacob Stallings with two on, and the 4th run allowed scored when it went off Alcides Escobar’s glove on a leaping attempt, 4-1.
Josiah Gray’s Line: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 10 ks, 1 HR, 98 P, 66 S, 4/2 GO/FO.
“Josiah threw the ball well,” Martinez said after what ended up a 5-2 loss. “It was really one pitch, the walk, and one pitch from having a really good outing. But I thought he threw the ball well. He came out that last inning, he had 98 pitches when we took him out, but he was still throwing 94, making decent pitches, should have been out of that inning on that ball to Escobar, but I thought he threw the ball really well.”
“He was throwing strikes with all his pitches,” Martinez added. “Fastball, breaking balls ... breaking ball was sharp today and he used it very well, him and Keibert had a good game plan going in today. But like I said, he had that one inning where he walked [Sánchez], and one bad pitch — he tried to throw a slider, it didn’t really do much, Wendle hit it for a home run, but he came back and like I said, a lot of weak contact, and threw the ball well.”
Gray said his success, “... was a product of having good command tonight, but going out there and wanting to attack those guys knowing their approaches and things like that, but first time through was great in terms of first-pitch strike, things like that, and just look to build on that for the next outing.”
Josiah Gray, Nasty 85mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/RQ3LM5nLvF— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 26, 2022
What did he do, and how did the extra couple days’ rest impact Gray in the outing?
“I just took it as just normal rest, so didn’t really try to change too many things,” Gray said, “got off the mound a little bit Saturday, but tried to keep the routine as normal as possible.”
“We saw it tonight,” Martinez told reporters. “He was 94-95, throwing the ball well, breaking ball was sharp. Everything was sharp today, so for me I want him to look back on this and build on it, but he threw the ball really well, and he got up to 98 pitches, which is the most this year, with ease. We watched him, he wasn’t laboring, he was 94 [MPH], you know, when we took him out, so we’ll build off of that start.”