Gray Rainy Day:
In the “first half”, Josiah Gray, 25, finished with a 3.41 ERA, a 4.79 FIP, 47 walks, 92 strikeouts, and a .253/.339/.415 line against in 18 starts and 100 1⁄3 IP, earning himself a spot on the NL’s All-Star roster a year after he put up a 4.40 ERA, 5.21 FIP, 39 walks, 106 strikeouts, and a .227/.312/.448 line against in 92 IP before the break in 2022.
He ended the year with an MLB-leading 38 home runs allowed (2.30 HR/9). Gray has been able to keep the home runs in check so far this season (14 HRs allowed in 100 1⁄3 IP before Sunday, 1.26 HR/9), and he put together a solid first half, but Gray, after learning he was an All-Star, said he knew there was plenty of work to be done.
“The work doesn’t stop here,” Gray said earlier this month. “I have three more months-plus to go.”
He tossed a scoreless inning in the Midsummer Classic, and heading into the first start of his second-half on Sunday, his manager said he was hoping Gray could pick up where he left off before the break.
“He pitched in the All-Star Game, had a really good inning, hopefully he carries that over to the start today,” Martinez said before the finale with the Cardinals in Busch Stadium in St. Louis. “He’s on his regular day, but we’re excited to get him back out there and see what he can do. He had a lot going on in the last week, but I think knowing Josiah he’s ready to go today.”
Unfortunately, the Nationals’ right-handed starter had traffic on throughout his time on the mound on Sunday, working around a double and hit-by-pitch in the first, two singles in the second, and a single and a walk in the third, before the Cards got to him in the fourth, with four straight singles to start the inning, and five overall in the frame as the home team got on the board with three runs, 3-1.
A one-out home run in the fifth made it 4-1, and Gray was up to 95 pitches after five, with 10 hits, a walk, and the four earned runs allowed.
“He had traffic from the first inning on. He couldn’t really establish his fastball today. He threw a lot more sliders, a lot more cutters,” Martinez said after what ended up an 8-4 loss.
“But he got out of some jams and gave us all he had for five innings,” the manager added. “I thought that was enough. He had 95 pitches, so but he goes out there and like I said — one of the things I know about Josiah and what he’s learned is how to pitch in those moments and get out of situations like that. I know they scored some runs today, but early on — we could have been down really early, and he fought to keep us in the game, and I’m proud of him for doing that. He didn’t have his great stuff today, but he battled through.”
Gray’s approach in high-leverage spots, he explained, is to try to focus on each pitch while knowing he’s only a pitch away from getting out of the jams.
“That’s the mentality I’ve taken all year, and it’s worked out,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“Today, it didn’t work out so well. But it’s going to be what I take through the rest of this year: I’m one out away from being in a better position.”
Martinez was asked if Gray working more in the zone, and getting more contact this year, is going to result in games like Sunday afternoon’s, where the hits fall in, or get through, but the sixth-year skipper said it’s more about the starter establishing his fastball and working off it.
“I think for the most part, we talk about this all the time with him: When he establishes his fastball, they got to be really — sometimes when you don’t have your fastball, and they can stay back on breaking balls, you’ll see those hits like that. So for me it’s a combination of just him getting ahead, using his fastballs a little bit more and then using his breaking stuff to finish hitters off.”
Hunter Harvey Injured?:
A quick look at the data on Hunter Harvey’s velocity from Saturday’s outing raised some concerns:
“A little bit of concern,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters before yesterday’s game.
“I told him he was down yesterday. He’s getting some treatment right now, we’ll see how he feels during the game time, but we’ll keep an eye on him, we’ll see what happens.”
“It’s his forearm, and the back of his triceps area, so he’s one of our top-end guys in the back of our bullpen, so we want to make sure we keep an eye on him,” Martinez said.
With the reliever’s injury history, the Nationals are going to act out of an abundance of caution.
Harvey had Tommy John surgery in 2016, and he dealt with oblique and lat strains in 2021, so the club has had to handle the hard-throwing righty carefully, but he’s made big strides this season, so the potential issue is a tough blow.
“He’s very diligent about his work, what he does,” Martinez said of his closer staying healthy to this point this season. “Not only when he pitches, but when he’s with the trainers. He’s working out with our strength guys. He’s keeping himself in great shape. And that’s a testament that he wants to get better. He comes from a background where his dad pitched in the back end of the bullpen, so he understands what he needs to do, and he goes out there and does his job, but his velo was down yesterday, and he pitched through it.
“When he came in, I talked to him and he said he felt a little sore, so I said, ‘Well, you’ll be down today and we’ll see how you feel tomorrow.”
Harvey, of course, wanted to pitch through it.
“He wants to go out there and help us win, but I got to be a little bit smart,” Martinez said, noting they took an X-ray and it came back clean.
“[With] his background and his history, we’re going to try the best we can to keep him healthy, and if this becomes an issue, make sure we nip it in the bud before it becomes a different issue.”
Harvey went back to D.C. early on Sunday, to get an MRI, and after the game Martinez said they’ll continue to be cautious with him.
“I’d rather be very careful, very cautious with him. We’ll see what happens tomorrow, but more than likely we’ll have to IL him.”