GRAY VS MIAMI:
Josiah Gray threw 92 pitches in five innings in a less-than-stellar start against Arizona on the road in Chase Field two turns back, but the Nationals’ 25-year-old starter bounced back with his 93-pitch, seven-inning outing against San Francisco in Oracle Park.
“Efficiency was the key for him going that deep,” manager Davey Martinez said after an 11-6 win over the Giants.
“He kept it down to  pitches or something like that. He did really well. I’m proud of him,” Washington’s manager added.
“He went out there, he walked a couple guys, got right back in the zone, but kept us in the ballgame.”
“I think it’s a goal for all of us to get six-plus,” Gray said after his longest start of the year to that point. “And to get into the seventh, you kind of dream of that.
“For me to work around a few walks, work around a few hits, to get to the seventh, and feel like I had a decent, solid outing is always a plus.”
Looking to build on the outing, Gray took the mound last night in Miami and worked around a 2-out double in a 10-pitch first, before running into trouble with one out in the Marlins’ half of the second.
Jean Segura and Peyton Berdick both hit first-pitch sliders for back-to-back singles, and a four-pitch walk to Nick Fortes loaded them up in front of Joey Wendle, then things went a bit pear-shaped, with a grounder to first on which Dom Smith got a force at second, but a high throw from CJ Abrams to the covering pitcher was high, so no DP, and Gray leapt for the ball and his leg collided with the runner, which knocked the ball free, with two runs in on the play, 2-0 Fish after one and a half.
Wendle singled to start the Marlins’ fifth, and Garrett Cooper walked one out later, but he was forced out at second on Luis Arraez’s grounder to first, and Wendle was stranded at third on Jorge Soler’s check-swing roller back to Gray.
Two Ks in a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth gave Gray three Ks total on 83 pitches overall, and he got another inning in the seventh, but gave up a leadoff single by Fortes, and a one-out, two-base hit by Garrett Hampson, which drew Pitching Coach Jim Hickey out for a chat.
Gray struck Garrett Cooper out for out No. 2, then walked Luis Arraez intentionally to get to Jorge Soler, who sent out No. 3 rolling out to short...
Josiah Gray’s Line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 104 P, 70 S, 9/3 GO/FO.
“I definitely had to grind through it,” Gray said, as quoted by MASN’s Bobby Blanco, after what ended up a 5-4, walk-off loss to the Fish, in which he received no decision. “I know I didn’t have my best stuff tonight. I just wanted to work with the defense a little bit more tonight. So getting some ground balls, getting some early contacts allowed me to get through seven innings.
“But I didn’t have my best stuff tonight, so being able to get through seven is a positive night.”
“He wants to pitch deep into games and you can see that once again tonight,” Martinez said following the loss. “We let him go out there, we let him get out of some jams. He was good.”
• Luis García wasn’t spooked by the dancing second base umpire Jordan Baker, who he had to avoid as the second baseman tracked the ball, and he got to the two-out grounder back up the middle by Marlins’ catcher Nick Fortes, and threw across his body for out No. 3 of a 12-pitch fourth for Josiah Gray, helping his pitcher out of a relatively quick inning.
Luis García with a great play to end the fourth inning. pic.twitter.com/V2Z1BQrKmP— paige (@paige_leckie) May 16, 2023
• Jesús Luzardo tossed five scoreless against the Nationals, but Lane Thomas led off in the top of the sixth with an opposite field home run on a 95.7 MPH 0-1 fastball up high outside Thomas powered out to right field for his 5th of the year, 2-1 MIA. A 364-foot shot.
• Luis García singled off Marlins’ reliever Huascar Brazoban, and he took off on a 3-2 pitch to Joey Meneses, stealing second, and taking third on a throwing (and mental) error by Miami catcher Nick Fortes, before he scored on an RBI single to right field by Jeimer Candelario, 2-2 game. Alex Call walked with two down to load them up in front of Dom Smith, who hit a 1-1 fastball from left-hander Steven Okert to center for a go-ahead, two-run single, 4-2.
“Great at-bats, great at-bats,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said of the late rally, as quoted on MASN after the game.
“All of them had really good at-bats. They didn’t try to do too much.
“They tried to stay in the middle of the field, they both put good wood on the baseball and got big hits for us. Clutch.”
Kyle Finnegan came on in the eighth with a two-run lead, and gave up back-to-back singles by Bryan De La Cruz and Jean Segura, but he threw three straight sinkers by Peyton Burdick (after a pitch time violation) for out No. 1, then dialed up an inning-ending 5-4-3 DP on a ball to third off Nick Fortes’s bat. Still 4-2 Nats.
Hunter Harvey got the save opportunity in the ninth and he retired the first two batters, but gave up a two-out single and double and a run, 4-3, with Garrett Cooper doubling before an RBI hit by Arraez brought him in.
Jorge Soler stepped in next, got up 3-1 (on what should have been strike two), went to full, and won it on a walk-off home run to left. Laser. Dang, 5-4 Marlins.
Davey Martinez was asked after the game about switching things up and going with what he saw as the best matchups in the eighth and ninth innings.
“We used [Harvey] before,” he explained. “I mean, I liked the matchup with Finnegan in the inning before, so he was the right guy. It just didn’t happen tonight.”
Jesús Luzardo; Remember Him?:
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo and the club’s scouts liked what they saw in Jesús Luzardo when they watched him pitch for Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida in advance of 2016’s draft, and they took him with their 3rd Round pick, 94th overall, and signed him for $1.4M, in spite of the fact the lefty had recently undergone Tommy John surgery.
“He was an extremely highly regarded left-handed starting pitcher before he [underwent] Tommy John surgery,” Rizzo explained.
“He was very carefully scouted. We had seen him for years. He’s a guy that has stuff now and still has room to improve. The surgery was done by Dr. [James] Andrews, so we trust that it’s done well.
Jesús Luzardo, K'ing the Side. ✝️ pic.twitter.com/dJrRO7yinL— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 16, 2023
“Our area scout has a great rapport with the family so we know what type of worker he is.
“Hopefully, as we bring him along with our Tommy John protocol he can reach the heights that he had reached pre-surgery.”
A year-plus later, Rizzo traded Luzardo to Oakland along with infielder Sheldon Neuse and reliever Blake Treinen in the deal that brought Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to D.C.
Luzardo debuted in the majors with A’s in 2019, and was traded to Miami in 2021 for Starling Marte.
Jesús Luzardo's 6th and 7th Ks pic.twitter.com/W2lOjeUB9l— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 16, 2023
Going up against his one-time team, Luzardo tossed five scoreless innings on 79 pitches to start, striking out 7 of 18 batters as the Marlins went up 2-0 early in the series opener of the three-game set in loanDepot Park, but he gave up a leadoff home run in the sixth, and was up to 93 pitches before he got out of the inning with a 2-1 lead.
BACK PAGE - Teaching Moment:
CJ Abrams finished the Nats’ 4-game set with the Mets 6 for 16 at the plate (.375/.375/.813), with a double and two homers (matching his HR total from the previous 35 games), and his manager talked about the shortstop turning it on with the bat in his hands.
“We worked really hard with him about getting on top of the baseball, getting ready earlier,” Martinez told reporters after Abrams’ 2 for 4 game in the series finale, which saw him hit the second of those two home runs.
“And this whole weekend, he’s really conscious about hitting the top half of the ball, still be able to drive the ball and get the ball up in the air, which is great. He’s doing it the right way right now, and it’s awesome to see him catch up to the ball up elevated the way he did.”
There was, however, a moment in the game where Abrams did not do things the right way.
With a runner on first and one out in the Mets’ fourth. Abrams took a throw from Luis García on a potential double play grounder to second, but held on to the ball, and started to jog to the dugout before realizing his mistake.
There were only two outs. And he didn’t even try to turn a double play. Nats’ starter Patrick Corbin wasted a few pitches getting out of the inning, without any damage, but, obviously, the mistake did not go unnoticed by the Nationals’ skipper, who talked to Abrams to make sure it never happens again.
“I told him, I said, ‘You got to pay attention to what is going on every pitch.’ I reminded him, like when I was playing, we all — after every out we just held up a finger, and it’s a reminder to you, really, not just to your teammates. I said, ‘You got to do that.’”
“Davey was telling me about just reminding myself how many outs there are by putting [fingers] up,” Abrams confirmed, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“But we’ll be all right.”
“I said, ‘That’s a big moment, to turn two right there,’” Martinez continued.
“You’ve got to think about Patrick Corbin, the pitch count. But you got to stay focused in the game. And he was good. He accepts it, and he holds himself accountable.
“Hopefully, we don’t see it again.”
Martinez said he at least pondered whether benching Abrams for the gaffe made sense, but did not think it would have any real benefit.
“No, because ultimately — I could probably say, “Hey, we’ll sit him tomorrow.’ But he’s young,” Martinez explained.
“This is part of the process with these guys, so you think about it, but hey, he was still in the game and we need him to catch the baseball for Corbin, so you know it’s something that I talked to him right after it happened, everybody else talked to him right after it happened. It just — it cannot happen. We miss a double play, next thing you know a big inning occurs, then it becomes a big problem.
“There was no harm done. Patrick got out of the inning. But it was addressed. And hopefully, like I said, if it happens again, then it’s a different conversation.”
Abrams, who homered and singled after the mental error, didn’t let the mistake in the field get in his head and affect his plate appearances.
“I didn’t really think about it much at all,” Abrams said. “Just go up there and do my thing.”
“It doesn’t affect him,” Martinez said. “I think if I was to not talk to him about it, or talk to him in a different tone, it might affect him, but you know I tried to explained to him what happened, what needs to transpire the next time it does happen, and how he can avoid it happening again, and I think he appreciates that more than me saying, ‘You’re going to sit. Go take a shower,’ you know? I never had to talk to him about running the bases. He goes around, touches first base. We had that conversation too.
“And he knows, I can only tolerate so much. They all do. And if it continues to happen, then it becomes a problem for them.”
Martinez also said he didn’t immediately address the issue, but let it breathe for a bit before letting Abrams know it was a thing that could not happen again.
“I let him walk up, and then I’ll talk to him about it and understand,” the sixth-year skipper said.
“And it was a moment where he was actually two batters away from going up there to hit, but I needed to relay the message and be very clear about it, and I told him, ‘Hey, go up there and hit a double.’ And he said, ‘Okay.’”