Gray vs Cubs:
Winless in his last four starts with an 8.53 ERA, a 9.27 FIP, and a .276/.364/.737 line against in four second-half outings before today, Josiah Gray took the mound looking to turn it around and quiet any concerns about how he’s handling the rigors of his first full big league season at this point.
He was, however, coming off a rough, four-inning outing in which he gave up five hits, four of them home runs, three walks, and six earned runs, in a 7-2 loss to the Phillies in Citizens Bank Park.
“Obviously not something I want to highlight,” Gray told reporters of the career-high in HRs allowed (and league-leading HR total overall).
“Any big league hitter’s going to hit a ball middle-middle, especially in a ballpark where it’s flying, the thicker air. It sucks to give up four home runs.”
The issue wasn’t difficult to diagnose for Gray or his manager.
“Every ball that got hit hard was up, and his misses were almost right down the middle,” Davey Martinez told reporters after the outing.
“I left the balls too much middle,” Gray said separately in his own post-game scrum.
This afternoon in Wrigley Field, Gray tossed three scoreless to start, on an efficient-ish 45 pitches, working around three hits, and he retired the side in order in a 10-pitch fourth, to keep it a 1-0 game in the Nationals’ favor.
Gray worked around a leadoff single in the Cubs’ fifth, with help from his range-y, diving, teammate Victor Robles in center, and stranded a two-out single in a scoreless, 14-pitch sixth, which left him at 85 pitches overall.
GRAVITY DOES NOT APPLY TO VICTOR ROBLES pic.twitter.com/OR7w9TcFsD— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 10, 2022
Gray returned to the mound in the seventh, but left a 1-1 slider up and in to Nico Hoerner, who hit the ball to left field for a no-doubter of a leadoff homer, which cut the Nationals’ lead in half, 2-1. A one-out single by former Nats’ catcher Yan Gomes ended Gray’s outing after 96 pitches overall.
Josiah Gray’s Line: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 Ks, 96 P, 64 S, 4/7 GO/FO.
Windy Steele City:
Justin Steele, a 2014 5th Round pick by the Cubs, who debuted for Chicago in 2021, was 20 starts and 95 2⁄3 IP into his second big league season, when the 27-year-old left-hander who had a 3.67 ERA, a 3.34 FIP, and a .247/.328/.341 line against on the year, faced off against the Nationals this afternoon in the series finale in Wrigley Field.
Steele was coming off a 4 2⁄3-inning start against the Miami Marlins in which he struck out 10 of the 20 batters he faced in a 93-pitch effort.
“You see growth every time out,” Cubs’ manager David Ross said, as quoted on MLB.com last week, with the lefty posting a 2.43 ERA and 3.45 FIP in his last 10 turns in the rotation, after he finished his first 10 with a 5.40 ERA and a 3.19 FIP.
Steele tossed two scoreless to start, on 43 pitches, but he gave up a one-out single by Tres Barrera in the top of the third, and one out later, César Hernández lined one out to center which fell in front of a sliding Rafael Ortega and bounced by the Cubs’ outfielder, allowing Barrera to score from first for a 1-0 lead in the finale in Wrigley.
Joey Meneses, Maikel Franco, and Ildemaro Vargas hit leadoff, one-out, and two-out singles, respectively, off Steele in the top of the fourth, loading the bases, but Tres Barrera K’d on an attempt to check his swing on a 1-2 slider in the dirt for out No. 3 of a 25-pitch frame which left Steele at 68 pitches overall.
Meneses, who homered in each of the first two games of the series in Wrigley, did it again in the sixth, inning that is, of the third game, taking a 2-1 fastball from Steele just to the left of center field for a leadoff blast, his 4th since coming up on August 2nd, and a 2-0 Nats’ lead.
Joey Meneses simply cannot stop homering. pic.twitter.com/O0yAsmTBnH— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 10, 2022
Justin Steele’s Line: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 Ks, 1 HR, 94 P, 65 S, 5/1 GO/FO.
VOBPit (Or Something):
Luke Voit started the finale in Wrigley with a 19-game on-base streak going, over which he had 19 hits, eight walks, was hit three times, and had posted a .385 OBP. Voit, who joined the club in the deadline deal with the Padres, was 7 for 20 (for a .350 AVG), with two home runs, three RBIs, three walks, a hit by pitch, and three runs scored since joining the Nats, but he was 0 for 3 with a K through five today, and a swinging K in the eighth left him 0 for 4.
Michael Rucker took over for the Cubs in the top of the seventh, and retired the Nationals in order to keep it a 2-0 game in the visitor’s favor.
Steve Cishek came on for the Nationals with a runner on first and one out in the Cubs’ half of the seventh, and walked the first batter he faced, P.J. Higgins, then Nick Madrigal (who was 0 for 24 with RISP on the year) came up with his first hit with runners in scoring position this season, an RBI single to center, which tied things up at 2-2. Victor Robles airmailed an ill-advised throw home on the play, compounding his “error” as both runners advanced into scoring position, and a sac fly by Rafael Ortega put the Cubs up by a run, 3-2.
Carl Edwards, Jr. took over and gave up an RBI single by Ian Happ, 4-2.
Joey Meneses (2 for 3, HR) walked with two out in the Nationals’ eighth, and Nelson Cruz hit a pinch hit single to keep the inning alive, but both Meneses and Cruz’s pinch runner were stranded at the end of a scoreless top of the inning by Brandon Hughes and Rowan Wick (who came on with a runner on and one out).
Wick finished off the eighth, then came back out with a 1-2-3 ninth to give the Cubs the win.
Nationals now 36-76