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Washington Nationals watching Josiah Gray carefully as he navigates first full MLB season

Davey Martinez said he and his coaches will watch their 24-year-old starter closely down the stretch as he’s struggled in recent outings...

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Going into Friday night’s outing, Josiah Gray was (7-7) in 19 starts this season, with a 4.59 ERA, 5.30 FIP, 118 Ks collected, and 43 walks and 24 home runs allowed in 102 innings in his second season in the Washington Nationals’ rotation, after he was acquired from LA in last July 30th’s deadline deal with the Dodgers.

Amongst pitchers with at least 100 IP so far this season, Gray’s 2.12 HR/9 were the most in the majors, with 14 of the 24 homers solo home runs, but as he said early this season, he expects to give them up on occasion since he’s pitching aggressively in the zone, and he is after all a fly ball pitcher.

“Obviously being aggressive in the strike zone — it’s going to lead to hits, it’s going to lead to home runs,” Gray explained back in April, “… being a fly ball pitcher ... but I’m just really excited with the way I’m throwing strikes, the way I’m controlling at-bats, and I think that’s only going to get better. As the season goes on, as we continue to get comfortable, things like that.”

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Gray gave up his 25th home run of the season, and 15th solo homer, on a one-out shot by Rhys Hoskins in the bottom of the first inning Friday night. Nick Castellanos followed later in the inning with a two-run shot, No. 26 off the Nats’ starter, and Darick Hall hit one to right field for the third of the inning and 27th overall off the Nationals’ 24-year-old pitcher in 2022.

Overall this season, Gray’s manager said before his July 31st start against St. Louis, he’s made some big strides, and improved his game from where he was when he came over from Los Angeles.

“He’s been a lot better since I saw him first last year about attacking the strike zone,” Davey Martinez told reporters.

“Knowing that he can attack the strike zone, not being afraid to throw strikes when he needs to, and how to use every pitch in certain situations, so he’s been really, really good.”

When he struggled against the Cardinals in the nation’s capital, Martinez said the key for Gray was getting ahead in the count.

“The biggest thing for me is, as we always talk about with him, is getting ahead. When he was ahead - I think he was ahead eight times today - nobody got on base.

“When he falls behind, he had a bunch of traffic. So, today, I think it was almost 50-50 on balls and strikes. He’s got to be effective in the strike zone, get early contact, like we talk about, but really, he’s got to really focus on getting ahead of hitters.”

Gray ended up giving up a career-high four home runs and six runs total in last night’s start against the Phillies, in what ended up a 7-2 loss in Citizens Bank Park.

“He didn’t have his best stuff tonight,” Phillies’ catcher J.T. Realmuto, who hit the 4th HR off Gray in the third, told reporters, as quoted by’s Jessica Camerato after the game.

“After [Rhys’s] first at-bat, he came straight to me and said the life wasn’t the same tonight on [Gray’s] fastball. The first couple sliders I saw were looser than they had been the previous couple times we faced him. He just didn’t quite have his best stuff tonight, and we were able to take advantage of it.”

What was the biggest issue this time out?

“Just his misses,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters in his post game presser in Philadelphia, as quoted by MASN’s Bobby Blanco.

“Just he was up in his zone. Every ball that got hit hard was up, and his misses were almost right down the middle. So talked to him a little bit when he came out of the game about just working down, working down in the zone. If he’s gonna miss, he can’t miss over the plate. He settled down a little bit after, but he had the pitch count, and at that point I talked to [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey about just getting him out. Give him a little breather. We’ll start him again in five days.”

“I left the balls too much middle,” Gray explained when asked about his rough outing. “I tried to get in there on Hoskins, Castellanos, and Realmuto. Just left it middle. They did what they’re supposed to do. Yeah, nothing really went well tonight.”

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

“Just not a lot went my way,” he added.

“Just up there kind of searching, in terms of just trying to get in the flow of the game and trying to give the team something. But tonight obviously wasn’t my night. It’s a matter of coming back tomorrow and getting to work, but it’s tonight wasn’t my night. I couldn’t really get in the flow. It’s just definitely frustrating.”

Gray didn’t have much to say about the four home runs he allowed, leaving him with an MLB-high 28 home runs allowed over 106 IP (2.38 HR/9).

“Obviously not something I want to highlight,” Gray said, as quoted by’s Jessica Camerato.

“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.

“Sometimes it’s not going to go my way. But in terms of physically and everything like that, I feel like I’m prepared for every start that I’m lined up for.”

Martinez said he and his coaches will keep a close eye on the starter going forward.

“We’re keeping a close eye on him,” the fifth-year skipper said.

“He’s worked really hard to keep himself going. Hopefully, we won’t have to shut him down because I know he does not want that. He wants to continue to go. But we’ll monitor him.”