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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats shut Padres out, 2-0, rubber match today in Petco Park...

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ 2-0 win over the Padres in Petco...

Gray Takes Petco:

Josiah Gray gave up nine hits (two of them home runs) and a season-high six earned runs in five innings on the mound the last time out, before facing the San Diego Padres on the road in Petco Park on Saturday. His manager said after Gray’s 15th start of the season he hoped it would be a learning opportunity for the 25-year-old right-hander, who finished the outing in the nation’s capital with a 3.64 ERA (up from 3.19 going into the start), a 4.88 FIP, (up from a 4.77 FIP before he took the mound), and .248/.332/.418 line against (up from .237/.325/.389).

“I hope Josiah learns from it today, and comes back out there, and I know that he’s going to come out there and compete in five days from now,” Davey Martinez said after Gray’s rough start.

“Today was a day he just couldn’t finish hitters off, and he got beat by it. So, he’ll come back out in five days, but his stuff was good.”

Gray took the mound in Petco with a 1-0 lead, courtesy of a solo shot by Jeimer Candelario in the top of the first, and he had a 2-0 lead when he came out for the second. Gray put up five scoreless innings against the Padres on 93 total pitches, and he came back out for the bottom of the sixth, with four hits and three walks allowed, and he walked the first batter he faced, on his 98th pitch.

He popped up Jake Cronenworth with his 99th pitch for out No. 1, but it was the last out he recorded in the outing as his manager went to the ‘pen...

Josiah Gray’s Line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 6 Ks, 99 P, 58 S, 4/3 GO/FO.

Gray generated 13 swinging strikes in the outing, spread out over the sixth pitches recorded by Baseball Savant, and he finished the night with 15 called strikes (seven on his slider, five on his sinker, two on his curve, and one on his four-seam fastball).

“The story tonight, to me, is Josiah,” Martinez said after the Nationals held on for a 2-0 win, evening things up in the three-game set.

“[Gray] battled through. His pitch count was a little bit high, but he got through it. Tough lineup, and we were able to get him the win.”

While he wasn’t particularly efficient, Gray battled out of the trouble he found himself in and put together another solid out which impressed his manager.

“This is something that we talked about and something that he learned from last year, about just staying in the moment, get to that next pitch,” Martinez explained. “He did it really well tonight. He got in a little bit of a jam here and there, but he was able to get out of it making good pitches. He’s learned, he’s learned a lot. He knows he can compete up here, he knows he can win games up here, so he’s done really well.”

“I limited the damage,” Gray said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “Each walk that I gave up, kind of stranded the guy where they were, didn’t let it pile up. They were, I guess you can say, kind of strategic. They got on base, but I was able to strand them.”

KEY MOMENTS:

• In the aftermath of last night’s deflating 13-3 loss, Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters his club had to put the game behind them and try to go 1-0 in the 2nd of 3 with San Diego’s Padres in Petco.

“We got to come back tomorrow and try to score first and give Josiah [Gray] a lead,” the sixth-year manager said.

Jeimer Candelario got all of a center-cut, 92.9 MPH fastball from Friars’ starter Matt Waldron and did just that, hitting his 9th home run of the season 395 feet to right field with two outs in the top of the first, giving Gray a 1-0 lead to work with before he took the mound.

• Lane Thomas hit the second solo shot off the Padres’ righty in the top of the second, with a 396-foot, one-out blast for his 13th HR of the year. Thomas jumped on a first-pitch heater up and away and hit it out to make it a 2-0 game in the Nationals’ favor.

Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez talked after the win about Thomas and Candelario providing the offense the club needed.

“Big, big,” he said of the home runs. “I can’t say enough about Lane, and I keep saying this, if he keeps doing what he’s doing, to me he’s an All-Star. He really is. He’s playing really well in the field, he’s knocking in big runs, hitting home runs for us, and Jeimer has just been steady, hitting the ball and playing good defense for us as well. Those two guys, those two guys get going and hit some home runs, we’ll score some runs.”

ALSO THIS:

BULLPEN ACTION:

Mason Thompson finished off the sixth, and returned to the mound with a scoreless home-half of the seventh to keep it a 2-0 game in the Nationals’ favor. 1 13 scoreless on 24 pitches.

Kyle Finnegan got the eighth, and struck out two of the three batters he faced in a 16-pitch frame.

Hunter Harvey tried to make the 2-0 lead hold up in the ninth, and the right-hander earned the save with a quick, 12-pitch, eight-strike, 1-2-3 frame.

“That, was a good one,” Davey Martinez said after the win. “Josiah gave us the five innings-plus that we needed. Mason comes in, and shuts the door in a big inning right there, and Finnegan and Harvey finish it off with great stuff.”

BACK PAGE - Chad Kuhl DFA’d:

Before the second game of three with the Padres yesterday, the Nationals announced their latest in a string of roster moves, designating veteran Chad Kuhl for assignment, after the right-hander gave up four hits, a walk, hit a batter, and surrendered four earned runs in an ugly, 30-pitch frame in Washington’s 13-3 loss in San Diego.

“His stuff is good,” manager Davey Martinez said on Friday night, “just he falls behind, and then he’s got to make pitches — his misses are almost right down the middle of the plate.

“But we got to just talk to him about utilizing both sides of the plate,” he added.

“But his fastball was good. His sliders — he’s hanging a lot of sliders now, but the biggest thing is that he’s falling behind a lot.”

Washington Nationals v San Diego Padres Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Kuhl, who began the season as a starter, but moved into the bullpen after missing time with an injury, finished the first game of the series in Petco Park with a 7.16 ERA, a 6.64 FIP, and a .308/.425/.492 line against in 16 13 IP out of the bullpen, and the Nationals decided to make a change, calling up Paolo Espino from Triple-A to take Kuhl’s place.

“The toughest part of my job is letting guys go when you start building these relationships with them,” Martinez said in his pregame presser on Saturday.

“It’s hard. I know he gave it his all. It just didn’t work out.”

Martinez reiterated the fact it wasn’t Kuhl’s stuff, but his command that was the problem.

“His stuff is good. I look back at yesterday, and he was throwing 99 [MPH]. Obviously, he’s got a lot going on. But I just hope for his sake, it works out and he gets picked up by another team and he’s pitching again. Unbelievable person. His whole family is. He was here, he gave everything he had and I wish him all the best.”

If his stuff is still good, what wasn’t working for Kuhl?

“I think he couldn’t slow himself down at times,” Martinez said.

“And then when he got overwhelmed when guys got on base and really sped up a lot. But his stuff was good, he didn’t command his slider. For me, he was behind quite a bit on hitters. So if he can get the ball in the strike zone he’s going to be okay, and we worked really hard to try to get him there, it just didn’t happen.”