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Washington Nationals news & notes: Jake Irvin makes MLB debut; Nats beat the Cubs again, 2-1...

Highlights from Jake Irvin’s MLB debut and the Nats’ 4-1 win over the Cubbies...

2018 4th Round Pick Gets Opportunity:

“I think he’s more steady than spectacular. He’s kind of a more floor than ceiling guy,” MLB Pipeline scout Jim Callis said after the Nationals selected right-hander Jake Irvin in the 4th Round of the 2018 Draft out of the University of Oklahoma.

“He’s athletic, he’s 6’6”, kind of sits at 90-92, he’ll flash you 95, with some run and sink, the slider and the changeup, they’re okay,” Callis added, “and I think that’s going to be the key for his development at the next level, is whether he can polish up those secondary pitches to get them better than average to pair with that fastball.”

Through Wednesday night, Irvin, 26, had a 3.80 ERA overall in four seasons in the Nats’ system, though he missed the 2021 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

He was added to the 40-man roster this winter to protect him from selection in the Rule 5 Draft, increasing the possibility he could be called up to make his MLB debut, and after he made a strong start in his fifth outing at Triple-A Rochester this season, the righty got the opportunity.

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

“His last outing, he pitched really well,” Martinez said in naming Irvin the Nationals’ starter for the third of four with the Cubs in the nation’s capital, as quoted by’s Mark Zuckerman.

“He’s stretched out to about 90 pitches. So we’re going to give him an opportunity to come out here and start for us tomorrow, and see what he does and see where he goes.”

“He’s a big physical pitcher,” GM Mike Rizzo told The Sports Junkies on Audacy’s 106.7 the FAN on Wednesday morning. “He’s got good stuff, really been hampered developmentally.

“He had Tommy John surgery which cost him a year, the COVID season [in 2020] cost him another year. He’s really — at 26 years old — he really has little professional experience, but has progressed to the point where he started the season at Triple-A. He’s got a big fastball in the mid-90s, and slider/change, and we want to see him attack the strike zone today.

“Throw strikes, make the Cubs put the ball in play and let the defense do their thing.”

Martinez talked to him on Tuesday so the starter could go through his routine and not have to worry about anything but his preparation in advance of his debut, but the manager said he wanted to see Irvin continue doing more of what he did at AAA to earn the opportunity.

“It’s all about throwing strike zone, attacking the strike zone,” the sixth-year skipper said. “I told him, I said, ‘Look, you had some success down there in the minor leagues, you’ll meet with [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey and the catcher [Keibert Ruiz] and kind of just stay in attack mode, and try to get early strikes and early swings, but the biggest key is that he throws strikes and tries to get ahead.”

Going into the game, the manager wasn’t entertaining any talk of whether this was a one off, or if the starter had a chance to stay around if he did well.

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

“Let’s get him through today,” Martinez said. “It’s a big moment for him and his family, but let’s get him through today, and then we’ll have some decisions to make.

“But hopefully he goes out there and competes and he does well enough to warrant us having a conversation about what we’re going to do with him next.”

“I know he’s got the ability to pitch here and pitch for a long time, but we’ll see how it goes tonight.”

Irvin hit Nico Hoerner with the first pitch he threw in the majors, issued a one-out walk to Ian Happ, and gave up a two-out RBI single by Seiya Suzuki, 1-0 Cubs at the end of a 24-pitch opening frame in the right-hander’s MLB debut.

Irvin retired the side in order in a nine-pitch second, and then stranded a two-out walk in a 19-pitch third, which left him at 52 pitches total after three.

Trey Mancini singled with one out in the fourth, but Irvin dialed up an inning-ending 6-3 DP in the next at-bat, wrapping up a quick, 10-pitch frame.

A leadoff walk to Patrick Wisdom in the fifth was Irving’s third free pass, and it drew a visit from Hickey. One out later, he issued his fourth walk, on his 81st pitch, and he got the hook.

Jake Irvin’s MLB Debut: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 3 Ks, 81 P, 45 S, 2/2 GO/FO.

Irvin threw 35% curves, 35% four-seamers (Avg. 92.6 MPH, up to 94.9), 16% changeups, and 15% sinkers, generating four swinging strikes overall according to Baseball Savant, with 22 called strikes on the night (nine with his curve, seven with his four-seam fastball, and three each with his changeup and sinker).

It was tied at 1-1 till the bottom of the seventh, when Lane Thomas tripled to start the inning and scored on an RBI single by CJ Abrams, 2-1 Nationals, and Hunter Harvey, in the eighth, and Kyle Finnegan in the ninth, made the one-run lead hold up in the Nationals’ second win in a row over the Cubs.

“Awesome,” Irvin’s manager said after the game.

“After the first inning, I sat back and I said, ‘You covered all the bases, you hit a guy, you walked a guy, a guy scored, so now you’re loose and go throw strikes.’ And he handled it really well.”

“He’s very poised,” Martinez added.

“He goes out there, he gets to the next pitch, he doesn’t get rattled. He got back. He stayed within himself, he stayed poised, he kept us in the ballgame.

“I thought that was pretty awesome.”

“He went to his changeup, his curveball, he threw his fastball for strikes when he needed to,” Martinez continued, “but that changeup is really good, and his curveball, his curveball had a lot of depth. He’s got to pitch. That’s what he does. And like I said, he kept us in the game and did well.”

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

“This is something that you dream of since the day you pick up a baseball, so I’m on top of the world,” Irvin said following his debut in the majors.

“And props to the team, man. The guys played great behind me and Keibert [Ruiz] called a fantastic game.”

Irvin, according to his manager, was thrilled after the outing, and the team made him talk in the clubhouse after the win.

“It just feels great,” Irvin said of the entire experience.

“I think it says a lot about perseverance, and I think every guy in this locker room can tell you the same thing: Getting here is no easy task. And you only debut once. So, it’s pretty awesome.”

Asked about hitting a batter with his first pitch in the majors, Irvin laughed it off.

“I’ve got to imagine I’m one of few to do that, right?” he joked.

“I can’t imagine many other guys have plunked the first guy, first pitch in their debut. So just laugh it off, man. Next hitter.”

“I just sat there — I wanted to see his reaction,” Martinez told reporters. “He just kind of like, ‘Ugh.’ It didn’t seem to faze him. He went out there and pitched really well.”