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Josiah Gray showing signs of improvement every time out

The Nationals like what they see from their 24-year-old starter early this season.

Washington Nationals v San Francisco Giants Photo by Michael Urakami/Getty Images

In his 4th start of the 2022 campaign, Washington Nationals’ right-hander Josiah Gray, 24, gave up seven hits, three walks, and four earned runs in 5 23 innings pitched, striking out 10 of the 27 batters he faced in what ended up 5-2 loss to the Miami Marlins in D.C.

Gray worked around singles in the first and second, and a walk in the third, before giving up a leadoff walk, one-out single, and a three-run home run on a slider to Joey Wendle that was absolutely crushed.

His second run allowed came in the sixth, when he gave up a double, a walk, and RBI single before he was done.

Those 10 Ks stuck out for those watching the right-hander, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers at last July 30th’s trade deadline deal which sent both Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to LA.

Washington Nationals v San Francisco Giants Photo by Michael Urakami/Getty Images

“Josiah Gray striking out 10 guys, getting into the sixth inning, you can see the progression on this guy,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies the morning after his 10-strikeout turn in the rotation.

“[Gray’s] got a chance to be a real force for us down the road, and I think you can see he’s learning something and improving each and every time out there.”

“I thought it was sharp for the most part,” Gray said after the outing.

“I think 2 out of the 3 walks ended up scoring*,” he added, “... so being able to limit those guys scoring and advancing is obviously something I need to work on, but other than that, one bad pitch to Wendle there, he hit that slider down, but for the most part I thought I was in command of the game, command of my fastball, my breaking balls, and definitely a lot of positives.”

[ed. note: “* = Only one of the three walks he issued ended up scoring, actually.”]

Gray’s manager, Davey Martinez, talked after the start about where the focus would be as the righty prepared for his fifth turn in the rotation.

“Just strikes,” Martinez said. “Just throwing strikes, and being in command of the game as he was today. Utilizing early curveball strikes, and offspeed strikes, he did that well again today, which was really nice to see, so for me, he’s definitely heading in the right direction, and like I said earlier, he’s got great stuff.

“Now if he puts it all together and uses it the way he did today, he’s going to consistently give us the innings that we need and get out of big innings.”

Going into Sunday’s outing in San Francisco, CA’s Oracle Park, Martinez talked about his message for his starter.

“I want him to just focus on each pitch and get through each inning, one inning at a time, and just understand that when you’re in those situations, those high-leverage situations, every pitch counts, so you’ve got to make a good pitch. He understands that and he’s learning, every time he goes out there he’s learning, he’s improving, so we just want him to go out there and compete and attack the strike zone like he did last time.”

The attack the zone thing? Not so much. Gray threw just 50 of 93 pitches for strikes (54%) in the series finale with the Giants on Sunday, and he gave up four walks, but stranded all four of the men he put on that way, and the one batter who got a hit off him in six scoreless innings in what ended up an 8-0 win.

Josiah Gray’s Line: 6.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 3 Ks, 93 P, 50 S, 5/2 GO/FO.

Washington Nationals v San Francisco Giants Photo by Michael Urakami/Getty Images

Gray talked after the Nationals win on Sunday about the relatively low K total (3) after he struck out 10 in his previous start.

“Obviously strikeouts are nice, but zeros are nicer,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “Keeping us in the game is my main mentality, and I did just that.”

Martinez sent Gray back out for the sixth, even though he was up to 81 pitches, but had a message for his starter on the way out to the mound.

“I talked to him between innings and let him know: ‘This is the inning where you’ve really got to focus on shutting the hitters down,’ “ Martinez said. “ ‘Go out there and make your pitches. I know your pitch count is up there, but I think you can make it through this.’ And he went out there and did great. I’m proud of him.”

Gray retired the Giants in order in a 12-pitch sixth and was done for they day in what ended up an 11-5 win.