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In the last three innings of his start - and possibly the last four - Yunesky Maya looked like he can be a fixture in the Nationals' rotation. He flashed a sharp curveball and a good slider, and once he started pitching backward, throwing his off-speed stuff before a flat four-seam fastball that topped out in the low 90s, Maya started getting outs.
Until at least his next outing, the Nationals will have to be satisfied with results that abstract. Maya's first inning got him in enough trouble that almost any shot he had of winning his debut was gone - especially with Mets rookie Dillon Gee pitching as well as he was.
While Gee allowed two hits in seven innings, Maya served up his fastball in the first inning, getting tagged for three runs that essentially killed his night. Ike Davis' three-run homer to center came on a Maya fastball that was essentially the standard for the night: belt-high and straight.
Jim Riggleman meets with the media following the Nats' 4-1 loss to the Mets
"It seemed like he had a little better command, a little better rotation, getting his breaking ball down below the knees in the third and fourth inning, fifth inning," manager Jim Riggleman said. "He pitched in effectively a little more, got some strike calls. He just got better as it went along, but the damage was done."
Maya wound up throwing 33 fastballs, 21 sliders, 16 curveballs and 15 changeups among his 87 pitches, and that's probably the kind of mix he'll have to aim for. His fastball doesn't seem good enough to be an effective out pitch, but his curveball has a tight 12-6 break, and he's confident enough in it to throw it for strikes early in counts.
"I feel real good with my breaking ball. Definitely, I want to throw it early in the game," Maya said through catcher Wil Nieves, who served as the Cuban right-hander's interpreter. "Obviously, a fastball is one of the pitches you need to locate. I'm a guy who likes to throw all the pitches. Sometimes one of them is working better than the other one. It's definitely important to have those breaking balls working."
Riggleman said Maya "kind of pitched as advertised," and the good news for the Nationals is, if he can pitch for a full outing like he did after making corrections, they'll have an effective middle-of-the-rotation starter.
His debut offered glimpses of that. But all those glimpses came after the Mets roughed him up.
"I think he felt like he didn't really have his breaking ball early," Riggleman said. "He likes to pitch with the other stuff. They just got him early."