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Washington Nationals’ Josiah Gray tests himself against LA Angels, and likes results

Josiah Gray held the Angels to three runs on five hits in the Nationals’ 7-3 win last night in Anaheim...

MLB: MAY 07 Nationals at Angels Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Josiah Gray walked (4) more batters than he struck out (3) when he faced the San Francisco Giants last Sunday in Oracle Park, but he also tossed six scoreless on 93 pitches, allowing a single hit in an impressive outing by the 24-year-old right-hander, who’s now allowed one or fewer runs in three of his last four outings.

He wasn’t too concerned about the lack of Ks from Giants’ batters either.

“Obviously strikeouts are nice, but zeros are nicer,” Gray told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after that start.

“Keeping us in the game is my main mentality, and I did just that.”

Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo, who’d previously said you can see Gray improving each and every time out, was thrilled with what he saw from the starter Washington acquired from LA in the trade which sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Dodgers last July.

“Yeah, I like his progression,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this past week.

“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.

Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

“He’s got the temperament, the personality, the repertoire and the stuff to be a really good pitcher, and I just like the way he goes about his business, and he’s a calm, cool, collected guy, but on occasion, in those big situations, he gives you a little bit of Max Scherzer on the mound, where he’s clenching the fist after a big strike or something like that.”

Through five starts before last night, Gray had a 3.12 ERA, a 3.94 FIP, 14 walks, and 31 Ks in a total of 26 innings pitched, holding opposing hitters to a combined .215/.324/.387 line early this season.

“He’s been good for us,” Rizzo said. “He’s one of our young set of players that we’re looking to take the next step forward for us, and so far this season he’s pitched well for us, we just need to have him continue and get through a season that he pitches every fifth day and takes the ball all the time and makes strides going into that next stage of his career being a starting pitching horse for us that can propel us into championship-caliber clubs again.”

Going up against the Anaheim Angels last night, Gray tossed three scoreless to start, and retired the first two batters he faced in the fourth, before Jared Walsh hit the 95 MPH 1-0 fastball the Nationals’ starter threw him out to right field, Max Stassi took a walk, and then Brandon Marsh hit a two-out, two-run home run to center to make it a one-run game, 4-3, after the visitors jumped out to a 4-0 lead.

With the Nationals up 6-3, Gray struck out both Taylor Ward and Mike Trout and popped up Shohei Ohtani to strand a leadoff single in a scoreless fifth.

He recorded one out in the sixth but gave up a single on his 83rd and final pitch...

Josiah Gray’s Line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 83 P, 49 S, 4/7 GO/FO.

MLB: MAY 07 Nationals at Angels Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Following what ended up a 7-3 win for the Nationals, Gray talked about testing himself and showing himself he can hang with a club as talented as the Angels.

“[Mike] Trout, [Shohei] Ohtani, and [Anthony] Rendon are as accomplished as they come,” Gray said, as quoted on MLB.com.

“So being able to trust my stuff and just go out there with full confidence and be able to get those guys out is just another boost to my confidence that I can go out there every outing 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,” Martinez told reporters after the Nats’ win, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

“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, and I talked to him about that: ‘You’re getting a whole better at staying in the moment and making your next pitch.’ “