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Washington Nationals news & notes: Josiah Gray struggles early vs Miami; Lane Thomas keeps crushing...

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ series finale with the Marlins...

Did Josiah Gray Bounce Back?:

Davey Martinez made the decision to end Josiah Gray’s start against the Blue Jays last week in Toronto after the 25-year-old right-hander threw 63 pitches total in two innings, 40 in the second, giving up four hits, four walks, and four earned runs in a shaky appearance.

“He threw 40 pitches that [second] inning, and I thought that was plenty,” he explained in his post game comments.

“He looked like he was struggling a little bit with his mechanics.

“Physically, I think he’s fine, mentally, and he was forcing a lot of pitches, so to me that’s just — I didn’t want to send him back out there.”

Asked what was off with Gray’s mechanics, Martinez elaborated.

“He was just flying open really bad, couldn’t stay behind the balls, pushing a lot of balls, his misses were way off,” Martinez told reporters.

“So we’ll talk to him, we’ll look at some film, and we’ll try to get straightened out before his next start.”

MLB: SEP 03 Marlins at Nationals

The rough outing pushed Gray’s ERA on the year over 4.00 (to 4.05) for the first time since early April.

“We got work to do,” Martinez said. “We’re going to continue to look at some stuff. We’re going to continue to work with him. I want him to finish strong, but we’ll get him back in that strike zone.”

Though he said he’d talk to the starter about workload, and consider the possibility of a turn off, the Nats’ skipper eventually decided to send Gray back out on schedule.

“I just didn’t have it today,” Gray said in Toronto, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman:

“I know when I’m in the strike zone, I’m a solid pitcher,” [Gray] said. “I’m just running into trouble lately and not throwing the ball in the zone as much as I’m used to.

“We’ve just got to work on it and get back to being the pitcher I know I can be.

“This month has been pretty rough for me, in terms of doing that job. But we’ve got to get back to the drawing board in the next start and get back to the overall focus of keeping the team in the game.”

Martinez said he liked what he saw when Gray threw a bullpen between outings.

“Really good. Really good,” Martinez said.

“A lot of strikes. He toned it down a little bit. The focus was to get his mechanics honed in a little bit and him throwing his fastballs a lot more and throwing them in the zone. He really pounded the zone today, so that was encouraging, so hopefully he’ll take that into the game on Sunday.”

The focus of their between-starts work?

“His direction,” the manager said. “His direction was off last time from what we saw. Today, in the bullpen, it was spot on. So it allowed him to do a lot of different things. His fastball was electric. Two-seamer was good. His changeup was really, really good, so I encouraged him to throw it a little bit more in this next outing. His cutter was good as well. He looked great.”

So the decision was made to send Gray back out there again.

“Yeah, he’ll start on Sunday.”

Martinez talked before the game yesterday about what he’d be looking for from Gray and what he wanted to see once the pitcher took the mound in game action again.

“Strikes,” he said simply.

“Compete, throw some strikes, early strikes, get ahead early, fastball command. That stuff. The biggest thing is direction for him. Get his head towards his target, but pounding the strike zone. Then he does that and keeps the ball down he’s been good. So we want to get him back to that today.”

Going up against the Miami Marlins in the nation’s capital, (after holding the Fish to two runs, one earned, in seven innings on the road in loanDepot park back in May), Gray once again struggled out of the gate, giving up a home run to right by Luis Arraez on his fifth pitch, a line drive single by Josh Bell, a ground-rule double by Jazz Chisholm, Jr. one out later (on a ball rookie Jacob Young lost in the sun in left-center), then three straight walks as he forced in two more runs, and finished the opening frame at 32 pitches down 3-0.

Gray needed just 12 pitches in a 1-2-3 second, and 21 pitches in a scoreless third, in which he stranded an HBP and a two-out single.

A scoreless, 24-pitch fourth in which he erased a one-out walk with a 6-4-3 DP, left him at 86 total, and he was replaced on the mound at the top of the fifth.

Josiah Gray’s Line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 2 Ks, 1 HR, 86 P, 51 S, 3/4 GO/FO.

“He pumped strikes,” Martinez said after what ended up a 6-4 loss to the Fish, which left the Nationals 2-11 against their NL East rivals this year. “First few hitters, and then the base hit to bell, and then the fly ball that got lost in the sun, and I think things started speeding up on him then and he walked a few guys in a row. But then he ended up — after that he ended up getting 10 out of 12 hitters out, which I like, and he was around the plate.”

“I thought overall, when he first started I thought, man, this is pretty good,” Martinez added.

“He was right around the plate, he was doing everything we asked him to do from the bullpen, and like I said, things just got — he got wound tight a little bit, and couldn’t control his emotions, which happens, especially to a young guy, and like I said, he started walking guys.”

Gray had an emotional reaction to escaping the first, yelling at his own teammate over the ball lost in the sun, which is something he regretted and his manager let him know he didn’t want to see again.

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“I don’t want to see that out there, yeah,” Martinez said.

“If he wants to come in and does that, we talked about it after the fact. One of our veteran guys handled it as well, and talked to him about it. Everything is good. But he understands, hey, that should be done in here.

“But like I said, frustrations will set in, you just got to remember what you’re doing and go out there and just keep competing.”

“Just not in character to show that much frustration out there,” Gray said in explaining his own actions.

“I already apologized to the guys about it. I feel terrible about it. I’ve just got to learn from it.”

He let his emotions get the best of him on the mound in the first as well, not just after the inning.

“I think that fly ball just threw me for a whirlwind, and I tried to refocus but obviously didn’t take long enough to refocus and regain my composure.”

“He wants everything to go right,” Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

“Not just for him but for the team. He wants to be out there competing for six, seven innings. And all of a sudden, you start walking guys and giving up runs, things just get out of hand. You’ve got to be able to control your heartbeat, get to the next pitch and not let those things bother you.”


“Lane Thomas has homered in back-to-back games for the second time this season (also Aug. 6-8),” the Nationals noted in their pregame notes for the series finale with Miami on Sunday. “He has never homered in three straight games.”

Challenge accepted.

Thomas stepped in against Marlins’ starter Sandy Alcantra with one out in the first and hit a 99.6 MPH, 0-2 fastball up high inside out to left (109.6 MPH exit velo) and off the 106.7 the FAN in D.C. radio booth on the concourse ... on a fly, 431 ft. from home. Lordy.

Thomas’s 23rd this season got the Nationals on the board early after the Fish jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning.

Thomas finished the day 3 for 5 with the early home run, and an RBI single in the fifth, in the losing effort, leaving him with a .285/.334/.484 line, 32 doubles, and 23 home runs over 136 games and 585 plate appearances on the year.

But seriously, watch this shot: