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Washington Nationals’ Jackson Tetreault hit hard in loss to Atlanta Braves in MLB debut

Called up to start in Stephen Strasburg’s spot in the Nats’ rotation, Jackson Tetreault struggled in his MLB debut...

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

“We will start Jackson Tetreault,” Davey Martinez told reporters after the series-opening loss to the Atlanta Braves last night, naming the 26-year-old, 2017 Nationals’ 7th Round pick as a replacement for Stephen Strasburg, who returned to the Injured List after just one start this season, following surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and an extended rehab process.

“[Tetreault] was in Triple-A, he’s pitching well, so he’ll come up and start tomorrow,” he said in announcing Washington’s plans for filling Strasburg’s spot.

In 12 starts and 58 IP, Tetreault had a 4.19 ERA, a 5.25 FIP, 24 walks (3.72 BB/9), 52 Ks (8.07 K/9), and a .231 BAA before he got the call to come up to make his first major league start, though his ERA jumped from 3.15 and the batting average against was up from .217 after a rough start in which he gave up seven hits and eight runs in 3 23 IP in his latest outing.

“He’s been good,” Martinez said. “He’s been throwing the ball well. He’s got a mix of three different pitches, he throws strikes, which is nice.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

“So like I said, he’s been doing well down there, so we’re going to give him an opportunity to pitch here.”

Before last night’s game, the Nationals’ skipper said his advice for the debuting starter was simple.

“For me, like I told him earlier, just go out there and throw strikes and pitch. We’re going to watch you, we’ll keep an eye on you, but there’s no limitations on him. He’s been stretched out pretty good. I watched a lot of video of him, and he’s throwing the ball well down there, so I hope he continues to do that here.”

Tetreault threw just 15 of 25 pitches for strikes in the opening frame, and one of the 25 left the yard, on a 1-out solo shot by Dansby Swanson, who hit a 3-2 cutter out to left for a 390-foot shot and a 1-0 Braves’ lead.

Three straight singles in the second loaded the bases with no one out, but Tetreault limited the damage to one run, which scored on a sac fly to right, and was up to 46 pitches after a 19-pitch second.

The visiting team got to him in the third, with Travis d’Arnaud and then in the next at-bat, Marcell Ozuna, homering off the right-hander in what ended up a 5-run top of the inning which put Atlanta up 7-0.

Tetreault was up to 76 pitches after three, but he came back out for the fourth trying to eat another inning for the Nationals’ beleaguered bullpen, and he set the side down in order in a 15-pitch frame which left him at 91 total.

Jackson Tetreault’s MLB debut: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 2 Ks, 3 HRs, 91 P, 55 S, 4/2 GO/FO.

Working with a 94.7 fastball (AVG velo), which got up to 97.9, which he threw 60% of the time, a cutter (86.5 MPH AVG; 30%), and a curveball (81-82 MPH; 10%), Tetreault got nine swinging strikes spread out among his three pitches, and eight called strikes, five on his cutter, but he had 19 pitches fouled off on the night, as the Braves’ hitters battled and ran his pitch count up to 91 in four innings.

“They fouled off a lot of pitches to get to a pitch [they could handle]— but for me, I’m just watching his poise, his mechanics, what he’s going to do,” Martinez said after the Nats’ 10-4 loss.

“And for the most part he stayed — like I said, he was a little amped up, but he stayed pretty poised, and I told him at the end, ‘Your first outing, let’s build off of that and get you ready for your next one.’”

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

“Obviously not the result I was looking for, but I’m not going to shy away,” Tetreault said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after his debut.

“I’m eager to get back out there and throw again. Just happy to get the first one under my belt. An awesome experience.”

“You know what? He’s got good stuff,” Martinez added. “I think he was a little bit amped up. He came out throwing really hard, but he was a little bit erratic. They fouled off some pretty good pitches. But I think next outing will be much better, because I think he’ll settle down a little bit.”

Martinez said Tetreault settled down as he got into the third and fourth, and his velocity did drop later in the outing, though the manager said that wasn’t necessarily a negative.

“He comes out the fourth inning, right, you don’t see the 97s, you see the 92s, 93s, but he’s throwing strikes. And that was an example that I gave him. I said, ‘It’s not necessarily how hard you throw it as where you throw the ball. You know. And you made some good pitches, didn’t throw as hard, and you got outs. And so this is something that you need to remember as well. It’s great that you can throw 95-97, but your location is more important.”