Coming off six scoreless innings against the San Francisco Giants, Josiah Gray took the mound in Anaheim, CA opposite the LA Angels last week, and gave up five hits and two walks, with three earned runs allowed in 5 1⁄3 IP in Angel Stadium.
Testing himself against a lineup as impressive as the Angels’, the 24-year-old starter said after the game, gave him even more confidence moving forward.
“It means a lot,” Gray said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “[Mike] Trout, [Shohei] Ohtani, [Anthony] Rendon are as accomplished as they come. Being able to trust my stuff and go out there with full confidence and be able to get those guys out is just another boost to my confidence. I can go out there every outing on the mound and know that my stuff plays at this level and I can get the best hitters out.”
“He battled, and he got out of some big moments,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said in his own post game presser that day.
“And for me, that’s just a learning curve for him. Every time we see him go out there every five days, he’s starting to get better.
“He’s starting to stay within himself, he’s breathing a lot better. It was a big day for him,” the manager added, “and I talked to him about that, ‘You’re getting a whole better at staying in the moment and making your next pitch.’”
Going into Gray’s 7th start of the season, his manager said he was hoping to see more of the same from the right-hander.
“Just continue to do what he’s doing,” Martinez said on Friday afternoon. “He’s pitching well, he really is. He’s got to attack the strike zone, and he’s got to attack the strike zone with all his pitches, and more so than anything with this team [the Astros], we got to get ahead. You fall behind this team, and they’ve got good hitters, so he’s got to work ahead.”
What he highlighted, when asked what he’s been most impressed with from Gray early this season, Martinez said it was his ability to adapt.
“The ability for him to adjust in-game,” he explained. “He’s been really good at it, he really has, and he’s starting to get it, he’s starting to stay in the moment a lot more, and not getting rattled if something goes bad, but he’s maturing, he really is, and he goes out there and as we talk about all pitchers, but he goes out there really to compete and wants to win.”
Gray dealt with some serious adversity against Houston last night, giving up five hits (two doubles, two home runs, and an RBI single) and five runs total in a 21-pitch top of the first inning against the Astros, but he settled in and gave up just one hit (a solo home run) after the rough top of the first, getting through six innings on 94 pitches to spare the bullpen a long night, but the 6-0 hole the Nationals were in early was too much to overcome in what ended up a 6-1 loss.
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.
“Misses,” Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after the game, diagnosing Gray’s first-inning issues.
“First pitch, last pitch, he’s got to make a pitch. He can’t just think he’s going to throw a ball down the middle, especially when you’ve got a team like that. They hit fastballs. And today was a perfect example: When he missed early, he paid. They hit the ball hard.”
“His misses were right down the middle. Those guys are good hitters, so he settled down, he started throwing more changeups, which was kind of nice, but he settled down.”
“The first inning, the pitches were just right over the zone,” Nats’ catcher Keibert Ruiz said.
Getting as far as he did considering how things started, and the way he worked to settle in after the rough first provided some positives to take away from the outing.
“After the first, I was like: ‘I’m gonna give the team as much as I can,’” Gray told reporters in D.C. after the game.
“And to be able to go six was a positive. So continue to make better pitches and go from there.”
“To be able to go six innings against a lineup like that,” he added, “... especially with that first inning is nothing to be, I guess upset about, because I’ve had better outings this year where I’ve gone less innings so there’s a positive in that to just give the team six innings and build off of that for the next one in Miami.”