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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats take opener with Phillies; 2-1; Josiah Gray unflappable + more...

Notes and quotes from a well-pitched game in the City of Brotherly Love...

Josiah Gray in Philly:

Josiah Gray walked four batters and gave up four hits in his 99-pitch, 5 13-inning outing on the road last weekend against the San Diego Padres in Petco Park, but he managed to strand all eight runners who reached base on him in what ended up a 2-0 win on the road.

“The story tonight, to me, is Josiah,” his manager, Davey Martinez, said after the game against the Friars. “He 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.”

“He got in a little bit of a jam here and there, but he was able to get out of it making good pitches,” Martinez added at another point in his post game presser.

“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.”

“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do, he’s getting better, he’s been really pitching really well in high-leverage situations,” Martinez said before Gray’s outing last night on the road in Philadelphia.

”Which is something that we talked to him about last year, so he’s doing outstanding.”

Gray struck out three batters after a leadoff walk in the first inning of the series opener in Citizens Bank Park, and he took the mound in the Phillies’ second with a 2-0 lead, but gave one back, with Bryson Stott singling to center on an 0-2 curve low, out of the zone outside, stealing second, and scoring when Alec Bohm singled to center on a 2-0 fastball low but over the middle of the plate from the Nationals’ starter, 2-1.

Up to 45 pitches after he retired the side in order in an 11-pitch Philly third (with help from CJ Abrams, who robbed Trea Turner with a leaping grab going back on the grass in short-center), Gray gave up one- and two-out hits (by Bryce Harper and Bryson Stott, respectively), but stranded both runners when he got Alec Bohm looking with a 95 MPH 2-2 fastball on the “black” outside to end a 21-pitch fourth at 66 total.

Kyle Schwarber watched a 3-2 fastball into Keibert Ruiz’s mitt for a called strike three and out No. 3 of a 15-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth which left him at 81 total after five with the Nats’ 2-1 lead intact.

Trea Turner and Nick Castellanos singled off Gray in the sixth, and Turner stole third with no one out, but the Nats’ starter popped up Bryce Harper, and J.T. Realmuto, and threw a high 3-2 heater by Bryson Stott for out No. 3 as he once again worked out of a jam to keep it a 2-1 game in the Nationals’ favor after six. 99 pitches total.

Josiah Gray’s Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 Ks, 99 P, 69 S, 3/1 GO/FO.

Once again, Gray proved unflappable in some tough spots.

“This is something that we talked about,” Martinez said after what ended up a 2-1 win.

“What he learned from last year to this year is staying in the moment. ‘Don’t get all riled up if something doesn’t happen right. Let’s focus on the next pitch.’ And he’s doing it so well this year.”

“The fact that he was able to control his emotions in big situations, stay in the moment and get big outs for us was huge today,” the manager added.

KEY MOMENTS:

• Keibert Ruiz reached on an error on a high throw to first base by Trea Turner on a grounder to short, and Stone Garrett followed with a two-run home run to left field on a 1-1 changeup low in the zone from Phillies’ lefty Cristopher Sánchez. Garrett’s 4th of the year was a 363 ft. fly ball that got out in a hurry and put the Nationals up 2-0 in the top of the second.

• Stone Garrett doubled, and Dominic Smith reached on a dribbler toward third that stayed fair, but with a first-and-third, one-out opportunity in the fourth, Derek Hill ran into his own bunt on the way to first, and CJ Abrams hit the first pitch he saw to first base for out No. 3... and a wasted opportunity.

• Lane Thomas singled on a weak grounder on an 0-2 slider from Sánchez, took second base on a groundout by Luis García, and third base on a wild pitch which got by Phillies’ catcher J.T. Realmuto, but he was stranded there three outs later, leaving the club 1 for 5 overall with runners in scoring position and five left on base in what was still a 2-1 game.

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

BULLPEN ACTION:

Mason Thompson came on with the Nationals up by a run in the seventh, and gave up a leadoff double by Alec Bohm, but back-to-back Ks kept Bohm at second, and Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez went to Kyle Finnegan vs Kyle Schwarber with the potential tying run at second base,

Finnegan, against whom left-handed hitters had a .160/.300/.280 line (8 for 50) going into last night’s game, got a weak grounder to second to end the threat. Still 2-1 Nationals.

Finnegan returned in the eighth and got two quick outs, but Bryce Harper reached on a ground ball to short CJ Abrams got to but didn’t field cleanly. Realmuto stepped in next, and the catcher grounded out to second, where Abrams got the force ... and then threw one over to first for the heck of it (or because he forgot how many outs there were).

Hunter Harvey needed 10 pitches to retire the side in order. Ballgame. Final Score: 2-1 Nats.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

BACK PAGE - Jose A. Ferrer’s Opportunity:

Before last night’s series opener the Nationals announced another roster move in a couple weeks full of them, placing Patrick Corbin on the Bereavement List, while calling up a lefty reliever, Jose A. Ferrer, from Triple-A Rochester.

“Patrick Corbin is on the bereavement list right now,” manager Davey Martinez explained in his pregame press conference on Friday in Citizens Bank Park, where the club was lined up to play three games this weekend. “So we thought we’d bring in Ferrer, one of our young left-handed relievers. Give him an opportunity, hopefully in the next couple of days. With all the lefties [the Phillies have], get him in the game. So yeah, he’ll be here, and we’ll see how it goes for him.”

No word on the reason for Corbin’s absence.

As for Ferrer, 23, the left-hander, “a native of Maimόn, Dominican Republic [who] signed with the Nationals as a non-drafted free-agent on July 2, 2017,” pitched at Low-A, High-A, and Double-A in in the Nats’ system in 2022, and he had a 3.83 ERA, a 4.93 FIP, 20 walks (4.50 BB/9), and 33 Ks (7.43 K/9) in 34 games and 40 IP at Triple-A this year before he got the call to join the big league club.

HIs manager’s advice for the southpaw when he finally hears his name called down in the bullpen for his MLB debut?

“We’ll have to control his heartbeat,” Martinez said. “His walks were up there [at Triple-A Rochester]. But ... the last couple of outings, he’s thrown the ball a lot better. Finding the strike zone a little bit more.”

A note in the Nationals’ press release on the move supported this scouting report:

“Ferrer did not allow a run in his final five games since June 17 and [he] held opponents to a .158 average (3-for-19). He struck out nine in 6.0 innings over that span, including striking out the side on June 22 against Omaha (KCR).”

“He tweaked his mechanics a little bit,” Martinez said. “So we’ll see. I’m glad he’s here because we’ll get eyes on him.”

For the sixth-year skipper, who got by without a left-hander in his bullpen for quite a while this season, having two now (with Joe La Sorsa joining the club earlier this month) must be really something of a luxury.

“It’s two different looks for left-handed hitters, so that’s kind of nice,” Martinez added.

“One guy has a little funk. The other guy is going to come at you. So I kind of like that. The last couple of outings Ferrer has thrown the ball really, really good.

“So he’s gonna get an opportunity here in the next couple of days, get him in there and see what he does.”