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Washington Nationals news & notes: Jake Irvin & Nats take loss in series opener with Brewers...

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ series opening loss to the Brewers last night in Milwaukee...

Irvin in Milwaukee:

Jake Irvin took the mound for last night’s series opener in Milwaukee, WI’s American Family Field unbeaten in his previous 11 starts, with a 3.57 ERA, a 5.27 FIP, and a .253/.246/.312 line against in 60 innings pitched over that stretch.

Irvin, 26, was coming off a six-inning, 88-pitch outing against LA’s Dodgers in D.C., which saw the rookie starter give up one run on three hits in a 7-6 win, in which he received no decision.

“He’s been really, really good,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters. “And he’s building confidence. I can see the growth in him. He’s attacking the zone. He’s doing everything we’ve asked him to do. He understands what he wants to do. He has a plan. He’s been awesome. This guy — from where we started with him to where he is now, he’s made unbelievable strides. And like I’ve said with all these guys — but him I’m very proud of what he’s been able to do. Hopefully, we can sustain that and he builds off of that, he finishes of the season strong, and then next year, he becomes a guy.

“He’s been good. Six innings, 88 pitches, outstanding.”

As they are with all their young starters, the Nationals are watching Irvin closely as the 2023 season winds down, trying to be careful with workloads, as they build up and try to prepare them for future years in which the teams hopes to once again compete for division titles or just postseason berths.

“He’s been working hard, so we’ll see how far we can push him,” Martinez said last week.

“The big thing is if we can get him another start or two and get those innings up, then for next year, we always talk about the 25%, he should be good to go for the season without [any] worries. But we definitely got to keep an eye on him.”

Irvin got off to a good start in the series opener with the Brewers, taking the mound with a 3-0 lead, courtesy of a Lane Thomas home run (25), RBI double by Carter Kieboom (2), and an RBI double by Ildemaro Vargas (12), and working around a two-out walk in the home first, a leadoff single in the third, and two walks in the fourth.

He issued two more walks in the bottom of the fifth, and both of them scored when Wilson Contreras hit a first-pitch sinker inside 456 ft. to left-center for a three-run blast, before the next batter, Carlos Santana hit a full-count sinker, not quite low enough, or outside enough, out to left-center to make it a 4-3 game in Milwaukee’s favor.

That was it for the starter, and the Nationals’ offense came up empty after their first inning runs, dropping a 5-3 decision to start the three-game set in Wisconsin.

“It stinks, man,” Irvin said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after he took his first loss since July 3rd. “The offense did what they have been doing all year. They put up three runs early, and it’s my job to secure that for us and get us deep into that ballgame.

“And I didn’t do that today. It’s very frustrating.”

“The walks and home runs,” Martinez said when asked where it went wrong for the rookie.

“That’s what got him in trouble. But he competed, got out of some jams early.

“We were hoping to get him through the fifth inning. It’s just that the walks got him.”

The five walks were a season high for Irvin, but he managed to stay out of trouble early on in the outing. What was he doing well early on?

“Mixing up his pitches,” Martinez explained. “But attacking the zone. I think he threw a lot of curveballs by design with these guys, but when you start doing that you fall behind and you start walking — these guys will take their walks, and you can see that when that happens, you get yourself in trouble and they’ve got some good hitters who hit some home runs.”

“We tried to get him through the fifth inning,” Martinez continued. “His stuff was still good, mid-90s. We tried to get him through it. He gave up the home run to Contreras, he needed to get just one more out, and 3-2, made another mistake to Santana and gave up another home run.”

With a few starts left down the stretch, what does the sixth-year skipper want to see starter do the next few times out?

“I want to see him bounce back after this one,” Martinez said. “He’s been doing really well. He really has. He’s the one constant pitcher who’s been going 5-6+ innings for us, so we’ll take a look at everything tomorrow, we’ll see where he’s at and try to get him ready for his next start if everything is well.”