While acknowledging the emotions of going up against his former team may have played a role in Josiah Gray’s rough, 3-inning, 90-pitch outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night in the nation’s capital, the Washington Nationals’ manager, Davey Martinez, also offered more tangible explanations for what led to the starter’s struggles.
“A lot of arm-side misses,” Martinez said. “Didn’t execute well tonight. Could have been a little bit that he was amped up to face his old team, but coming into the series we know about the Dodgers, and they walk, and they hit homers, and if you look at what they did, walk, home run, walk, home run, hit batter, walk, home run. His pitch got high, so we were hoping to get a little bit more out of him because our bullpen has been pitching a lot, but I’m not going to send him out there with 80 pitches after three anymore.”
Gray fell behind early, in the top of the first inning early, giving up a one-out walk to Freddie Freeman, then surrendering a two-run home run on a 2-2 fastball up high Trea Turner hit out to center for a 2-0 lead.
A single and a walk in the next two at-bats had Gray in the mid-30s with his pitch count, which got up to 40 after one.
Gray’s teammates rallied for three runs in the bottom of the first, but he gave up a leadoff single and a walk to the first two Dodgers’ hitters he faced in the top of the second, and Mookie Betts hit one out, a 3-run shot to left on an 86 MPH 1-2 slider which made it a 5-3 Dodgers’ lead.
A one-out hit-by-pitch on Justin Turner and two-out, two-run home run to right by Chris Taylor in the third, on another two-strike pitch, put the Dodgers up 7-3.
Gray’s 21-pitch third left him at 80 pitches overall, and ended his outing.
“Just location,” Martinez said when asked about the homers coming on two-strike pitches.
“Just didn’t finish. Like I said, he was — a lot of arm-side misses, couldn’t locate his fastball at all, breaking balls, some were sharp, some weren’t.”
Gray’s take on what went wrong?
“Everything,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Bobby Blanco. “They were hitting the ball hard. I wasn’t throwing many strikes. Nothing really went well tonight. So that’s how I look at it.”
The 24-year-old starter did acknowledge there were some real emotions involved in going up against the team that traded him to the Nationals in the deadline deal which sent both Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to LA last July 30th.
“There were a lot of emotions, honestly,” Gray told reporters. “You know, in being traded twice already, I guess this was my first opportunity to prove myself against a former team. So I obviously let the emotions get ahead of me and didn’t control them from the first pitch on. But yeah, the emotions were there. Kind of just wanting to prove them like, ‘Hey, you guys are missing out.’ But unfortunately, the outing didn’t go my way. But yeah, they were definitely there.”
“A little over-amped in my mind,” GM Mike Rizzo said, when asked to assess the outing in his weekly visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning.
“Tried to be a power pitcher instead of a guy who — hit your spots, work your plan, and utilize your repertoire and that type of thing, but that’s not unexpected in these type of games.
“First time you face a team that [traded you], you want to impress and you want to — oftentimes young pitchers want to overthrow and try to do too much.
“But when Josiah is throwing well, he’s hit his spots and his stuff plays, and I like the fact that he’s aggressive on the mound, he throws the ball over the plate, he’s not nibbling, but there’s a fine line between not nibbling and getting too much plate, and when you’re playing these types of teams — which, there’s a lot of them out there, a lot of good teams out there that you’re going to be facing, you’ve got to find that fine line where you can make your pitches, and still be aggressive, and get guys out on the outer thirds of the plate instead of the middle of the plate, and teams like this and Houston and those guys, they’ll make you pay when you make mistakes. It’s a good veteran-laden lineup, and when you make mistakes they make you pay.”
Gray paid for his mistakes on Tuesday night.
Martinez talked in his post game press conferences about how to fix the arm-side misses which he said hurt Gray in the outing.
“We just got to get him — as we always talk about with him, he has a funky landing with his front foot, and that’s not going to change overnight, but when he stays down and using his legs, and drives, he corrects a lot of it.
“Today, he was just open, arm came out away from his body, and you get all that run. So, like I said, we got five days, he’ll throw a bullpen in-between, but hopefully his next outing he does better, but it’s part of the growth, part of the youth, and he’s been doing well.
“We’re not going to beat him up, we’re going to love on him for the next five days and get him right back where he needs to be.”