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Houston Astros jump on Josiah Gray early, cruise to 6-1 win over Washington Nationals

Josiah Gray gave up five runs on five hits in the 1st, but just one run on one hit (a home run) after that, in what ended up a 6-1 loss to the Astros in Nationals Park.

Houston Astros v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Josiah Gray vs Houston:

“I like his progression,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies after Josiah Gray tossed six scoreless against the San Francisco Giants on the road in Oracle Park earlier this month.

“He’s becoming a guy that you can count on, and not to say that he’s not going to have his hiccups through the season like a lot of young pitchers do, but he shows the characteristics of a guy that can really pitch and starting pitch in the big leagues.”

Gray followed up on that outing with 5 13 innings of work on the mound against LA’s Angels in Anaheim, leaving him with a 3.45 ERA, a 4.65 FIP, 16 walks, 34 Ks, and a .219/.321/.412 line against in six starts and 31 13 IP in the first month-plus of the 2022 campaign.

“Every time we see him go out there every five days, he’s starting to get better,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after Gray’s start vs the Angels.

“He’s starting to stay within himself,” Martinez continued, “he’s breathing a lot better. It was a big day for him, and I talked to him about that: ‘You’re getting a whole better at staying in the moment and making your next pitch.’ “

Start No. 7 for the 24-year-old right-hander was trouble from the start. Jose Altuve jumped all over a 95 MPH first-pitch fastball and hit it 416 feet to center, onto the batting eye green for a leadoff home run and a 1-0 lead, and back-to-back doubles by Michael Brantley and by Alex Bregman in the next two at-bats made it a 2-0 Houston Astros’ lead early.

Bregman scored on a line drive single to right by Yordan Alvarez, 3-0.

Yuli Gurriel got all of the first-pitch slider Gray threw him with one out in the opening frame, and hit a two-run shot to left field, 389 feet, 5-0.

Gray threw 21 pitches and gave up five hits and five runs in the first, but retired the side in order in the second, and was up to six straight Astros set down before Yordan Alvarez hit the third home run of the game off the Nats’ starter, 6-0, taking a 95 MPH 0-1 fastball for a ride to center field in Nationals Park with one out in the third.

Gray got through six, sparing the bullpen extra work, bouncing back after the rough start, but the hole he and the Nationals were in after the top of the first proved too much for the club to overcome.

Josiah Gray’s Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 3 HRs, 94 P, 59 S, 2/3 GO/FO.

FRAHM-burrrrr Keeps Nats Bats Cold:

Given a 5-0 lead to work with before he took the mound tonight in Nationals Park, and a 6-0 lead after two and a half innings, Astros’ left-hander Framber Valdez worked around back-to-back, 2-out singles in the first, and held the Nats hitless through four after the early hits, throwing a relatively efficient 56 pitches to 19 batters he faced, three of whom he struck out.

Victor Robles beat the shift with a single through the right side of the infield with two out in the fifth, but was stranded at the end of a 13-pitch frame by Valdez.

Juan Soto lined a single to center to star the sixth, but was doubled up on a Josh Bell roller to second, and a Nelson Cruz groundout ended Valdez’s sixth scoreless frame.

A walk to Keibert Ruiz, single by Maikel Franco, fly to right by Lane Thomas, on which Ruiz tagged up and took third, and an RBI groundout by Alcides Escobar, on which Ruiz scored, ended Valdez’s bid for a shutout in the seventh, but it was still 6-1 Astros at that point.

The lefty came back out for the eighth at 93 pitches, and got two outs, but left two men on when manager Dusty Baker went to the Astros’ bullpen...

Framber Valdez’s Line: 7.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 105 P, 68 S, 9/4 GO/FO.

Bullpen Action:

Victor Arano took over for the Nationals in the top of the 7th, and the right-hander retired the Astros in order to keep it a 6-0 game in Houston’s favor after 6 12 in Washington.

Josh Rogers retired the Astros in order in the top of the eighth.

Random Nats Highlight So No One Complains:

Right-hander Rafael Montero took over for the ‘Stros with two on and two out in the Nats’ eighth, after starter Framber Valdez gave up a leadoff single by César Hernández and a 2-out single by Nelson Cruz. Keibert Ruiz stepped in with an RBI opportunity, but grounded into the shift. Still 6-1 Astros.

Paolo Espino tossed a scoreless top of the ninth, but the home team came up empty in the bottom of the inning.

Nationals now 11-23