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Washington Nationals homer way to 7-3 win over Los Angeles Angels; rubber match this afternoon in Anaheim...

The Nationals and Angels split the first two games in Angel Stadium, so they’ll settle this one in the series finale later today...

MLB: Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Angels Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Josiah Gray vs LAA:

Davey Martinez had simple instructions for Josiah Gray before the 24-year-old starter took on the Giants last week in San Francisco’s Oracle Park.

“I want him to just focus on each pitch and get through each inning, one inning at a time,” Martinez told reporters, “... 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.”

In his previous outing, Gray gave up seven hits, three walks, and four earned runs in 5 23 IP against Miami, striking out 10 Marlins.

While he recorded just three strikeouts, and walked four when he took on the Giants, Gray tossed six scoreless innings in an 11-5 win in which he allowed just one hit.

Gray didn’t care about the low K total.

“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.”

Given a 1-0 lead to work with after one, and a 2-0 lead after two, Gray started strong against the LA Angels tonight in the 2nd of 3 in Anaheim, CA’s Angel Stadium, working around a hit and a walk in three scoreless innings, which he completed on just 35 pitches.

Gray retired the first two batters in the fourth, but gave up a solo shot to right field, on a 95 MPH 1-0 fastball to Jared Walsh, whose 5th of 2022 got the home team on the board, down 4-1 at that point after the Nationals added to their lead in the top of the inning.

Max Stassi took a two-out walk after Walsh’s blast, and Brandon Marsh stepped in next and hit a two-run home run to center, 396 feet to the wall, and over the high shrubs behind the center field fence to make it a one-run game after four, 4-3 Nationals. Marsh’s 4th.

It was 6-3 in the Nationals’ favor when Gray returned to the mound in the fifth, and gave up a leadoff single by Andrew Velazquez, who was stranded three outs later after two Ks, from Taylor Ward and Mike Trout, and a fly to left-center by Shohei Ohtani in a 19-pitch frame for the right-hander, who was up to 72 pitches after five.

Gray returned to the mound in the bottom of the sixth, but a one-out single by Jared Walsh, on the Nats’ starter’s 83rd pitch, ended his outing...

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.

Ring The Bell:

Going into tonight’s game with the Angels, Josh Bell was 11 for 29 (.379/.455/.586) with three doubles, one home run, five RBIs, four walks, and seven runs scored over seven games on the Nats’ trip to San Francisco, Colorado, and Anaheim, and the 29-year-old, switch-hitting first baseman had reached base in 24 of 27 games played on the season.

Bell had a .344/.445/.516 line in those 27 games and 112 plate appearances, with three HRs, seven doubles, and a Juan Soto-like 16 walks vs. 12 strikeouts a month-plus into his second season with Washington.

Bell’s 4th home run of the 2022 campaign put the Nationals up 1-0 early in the second of three in Anaheim. He hit a 93 MPH full-count cutter from Michael Lorenzen out to center field and onto the rocks in Angel Stadium for a 2-out solo shot.

Yadiel Hernández hit a leadoff shot to right-center field to lead off the second, taking a 2-1 cutter from the Angels’ starter for a ride for his 2nd of the season, 2-0.

Hernández’s blast gave the 34-year-old outfielder hits in eight of his last nine games played, over which he was 17 for 39 (.436 AVG) with five doubles, two home runs, 12 RBIs, one walk, and six runs scored in that stretch, and got him off to a good start if he was going to extend a streak of five-straight multi-hit games. [ed. note - “Hernández ended up 1 for 3 with the HR and a walk, and two runs scored.”]

Bell and Hernández took leadoff and one-out walks the second time up for each against the Angels’ starter, and Keibert Ruiz singled to left-center to load the bases in front of Maikel Franco, who hit a two-run line drive to center field to drive in two and make it 4-0 Nationals in the fourth.

Bell was 2 for 2 with a walk after he singled with two out in the fifth, and knocked Lorenzen out at 89 pitches in 4 23 IP...

Michael Lorenzen’s Line: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 2 HRs, 89 P, 57 S, 3/1 GO/FO.

Bullpen Action:

Elvis Peguero came on for the Angels with Josh Bell at first after a two-out single in the top of the fifth, and Nelson Cruz stepped in and hit a 94 MPH 1-0 sinker out to left in a hurry to put the Nationals up 6-3 after four and a half in Anaheim. No. 3 for Cruz, who was 2 for 22 on the road trip before the home run, and struggling out of the gate in the first month-plus after signing a 1-year/$15M deal with the Nats this spring.

Keibert Ruiz walked to start the Nationals’ sixth, and scored on a double to left by Maikel Franco to make it a 7-3 game and end Peguero’s outing. Kyle Barraclough, one-time Nat, took over on the mound for the Angels and got out of the inning without further damage.

Steve Cishek inherited a runner from Josiah Gray with one out in the Angels’ sixth, and the right-handed reliever issued a two-out walk to Brandon Marsh, before a line-out to right by David Fletcher ended the inning.

Juan Soto beat out a grounder up the middle in spite of a tremendous effort and a strong throw from his knee by shortstop Andrew Velazquez, and Soto stole second, moved over when Josh Bell hit a fly to right for out No. 1 of the top of the 7th, but was stranded at third as Barraclough worked out of trouble.

Erasmo Ramirez gave up two-out singles by Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in the bottom of the seventh, but popped up Anthony Rendon to get out of a clean inning, still 7-3 Nationals.

Ramirez returned to the mound for more work in the eighth, and retired the Angels in order for his second scoreless frame.

Tanner Rainey needed 15 pitches in a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth. Ballgame. Final Score: 7-3 Nationals.

Nationals now 10-19