Green searching for more contact while trying to keep up with Nats' top outfield prospects

Elijah Green

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. – The Nationals have a plethora of top outfield prospects getting closer to the major leagues.

Top prospect James Wood just rejoined Triple-A Rochester’s roster after a three-week stint on the injured list. And he’s now reunited with the Nats’ No. 2 prospect Dylan Crews, who just earned his first promotion to Triple-A and hit his first home run with Rochester in his second game.

Robert Hassell III remains at Double-A Harrisburg, where he finds himself on the IL after a strong start to the season. And Daylen Lile has moved up from High-A Wilmington to get his first taste of Double-A ball.

But there is another top outfield prospect that may seem like he’s getting left behind.

Elijah Green still finds himself at Single-A Fredericksburg, unable to yet move out of the lower levels of the minor leagues now in his second full season in the Nats system.

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Nats again can't slug in strike zone in loss to Snakes (updated)

thomas trots v ARI

The Nationals’ aggressiveness at the plate has been on display all season. They want to swing at strikes, get on base and steal bases to score runs.

The approach of swinging at strikes is all well and good on paper. But you have to do some damage with those hitter’s pitches to make it meaningful.

They’ve had some trouble with it this week against the Diamondbacks. It didn’t work at all on Tuesday while seeing a grand total of 96 pitches during a 5-0 shutout. It barely worked Wednesday when they needed Jesse Winker’s two-run home run to rescue them in a 3-1 win after seeing only 104 pitches.

And it didn’t work again Thursday in a 5-2 loss to the Snakes as the Nats dropped their first series in their last four attempts in front of an announced crowd of 21,158.

The Nationals offense was once again doomed by not doing too much in the strike zone.

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Gray feels good after third rehab start, Abrams not in lineup after MRI on wrist

josiah gray pitches grey

Josiah Gray was back in the Nationals clubhouse this morning after making his third rehab start with Double-A Harrisburg last night.

Gray, on the 15-day injured list since April 9 (retroactive to April 6) with a right elbow/forearm flexor strain, threw 79 pitches over five innings in last night’s outing, his second with the Senators. He gave up two runs on three hits and three walks with five strikeouts.

Results aside, the right-hander said he felt good.

“I felt good, felt really good,” he said at his locker. “I got five innings there, (about) 80 pitches. Everything was really crisp. Changeup, curveball, fastball, cutter were on point and everything felt in control. Felt that I was throwing my best stuff out there. So I'm just looking forward to the next step and seeing where we go from there.”

Gray wasn’t sure what his next steps would be at the time. He was going to meet with manager Davey Martinez and the Nats training staff before today’s matinee finale against the Diamondbacks. The Nationals embark on a nine-game cross-country road trip tonight, and Gray didn’t know whether or not he would be going with them.

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Game 74 lineups: Nats vs. Diamondbacks

gore

The Nationals have a chance today to win their fourth straight series after getting swept at home by the Mets earlier this month. A win over the Diamondbacks would also give them 10 wins in 13 games during that same stretch. And a win would also bring them back to .500 and keep them firmly in a National League wild card spot.

Not to put too much pressure on a single game in June, but a victory to close out this series against the defending NL champs before embarking on a nine-game road trip that will take them all over the country would be huge for this team.

But they’ll likely have to do it without CJ Abrams, who was a late scratch from yesterday’s starting lineup and underwent an MRI on his left wrist. We should get some more insight into that surprising injury later this morning.

With or without Abrams, the Nats will look for better offensive results against Arizona pitching. Right-hander Ryne Nelson makes his 13th appearance (12th start) for the visitors. Although his overall numbers aren’t that impressive (4-5, 5.49 ERA, 1.640 WHIP), he’s coming off a six-inning outing against the White Sox in which he held them to one run and struck out eight. He also completed 7 ⅔ innings of two-run ball against the Giants earlier this month on just 80 pitches, so the Nats need to work the count better than they have lately.

MacKenzie Gore makes his 15th start this afternoon. The left-hander is coming off a dominant performance against the Marlins that included seven innings of one-run ball, 10 strikeouts and a dust-up in the dugout. Here's hoping that today will produce similar results on the field without the dramatics off it.

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Checking in on top pitching performances on farm

Jarlin Susana

The Nationals, of course, have some of the top position player prospects in baseball. But there are some arms that are impressing on the mound as well.

One of the best stories on the Nats farm this season is Brad Lord, a 2022 18th-round pick out of the University of South Florida.

After posting a 4.04 ERA and 1.328 WHIP in 27 games (17 starts) between Single-A Fredericksburg and High-A Wilmington last year, the right-hander has been one of the best starters in all of Minor League Baseball this season.

Lord earned his first promotion to Double-A Harrisburg after one scoreless start with Wilmington. In 12 starts with the Senators, he is 7-1 with a 1.55 ERA, 1.052 WHIP, 9.6 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate and 3.40 strikeout-to-walk rate.

Last week, he produced his second-career double-digit strikeout performance with seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball and 10 strikeouts for his seventh win of the season.

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Nats balancing lefty-heavy rotation with righty-heavy bullpen

herz on mound white

The Nationals are currently doing something they haven’t done in their nearly 20 years since relocating to D.C.: Running out a rotation with four left-handers.

Injuries to right-handers Josiah Gray and Trevor Williams have called for replacements, who just happened to be left-handers to make for a mostly lefty rotation that is rarely seen in baseball.

They are in the middle of a stretch where they have all four starting in succession. Three are scheduled to start against the Marlins this weekend started by MacKenzie Gore on Friday, and continuing with DJ Herz today and Mitchell Parker on Sunday.

It’s an ironic roster quick for manager Davey Martinez, who isn’t used to having too many lefties on his roster, starter or reliever.

“I couldn't even explain that really,” he said. “I sit back and go, 'How in the world did that happen?' But I like the ones we got, that's for sure. They're doing really well. Even DJ. I talked to him a little bit about the shape of his breaking ball. Right now, his changeup is good, his fastball is good. We worked out a little bit on the shape of his breaking ball. So when that starts coming around, he could really, really, really do well. So the other guys, they got no fear, right? I love them. They attack the zone. They're not afraid to throw their pitches when they need to, sliders or splits. They've been really good.”

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Gore, Nats push through extracurriculars to rout Marlins (updated)

gore

Frustrations are bound to boil over during the long baseball season. Either with one’s self or with a teammate, it’s a part of the game for every team.

Despite a shortage of wins over the last couple of years, there haven’t been too many incidents with the Nationals. At least not in the public eye.

The Nats have had even fewer reasons for one this year, as they entered tonight’s opener with the Marlins only four games under .500 and winners of five of their last six games.

But that doesn’t mean players aren’t intense in the moment. Some guys get into certain mindsets when it comes to game time and are completely different people off the field.

MacKenzie Gore is one of those players. Much like former Nationals ace Max Scherzer, Gore is very friendly in the clubhouse on days he’s not pitching. On days he does take the bump, however, don’t get in his way.

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Gray's challenge while rehabbing with seven-pitch arsenal (plus other rehab updates)

josiah gray pitches grey

Josiah Gray is going to retake the mound for the second start of his rehab assignment tonight with Double-A Harrisburg. The Senators are home against the Bowie Baysox (Orioles) with the injured right-hander starting and scheduled to go about four innings and 60-65 pitches.

Gray landed on the 15-day injured list on April 9 (retroactive to April 6) and made his first rehab start on Sunday with Single-A Fredericksburg. He threw 43 pitches and allowed three runs on three extra-base hits, awarded one walk, hit a batter and struck out two. He told reporters this week in Detroit that he focused mostly on his fastball and cutter.

Tonight, he’ll look to incorporate more of his extensive arsenal.

“I want to see him today to really attack the strike zone,” manager Davey Martinez said before Friday’s opener against the Marlins at Nationals Park. “Get ahead, finish. We always talk about finishing hitters in three pitches or less. I want to see him do that. Plus too, we talked a little bit about how to utilize his breaking ball. I want to see him throw it early in counts for strikes and see if he can do that. But the biggest thing is his mechanics. We got to make sure he hones in on his mechanics. That he's not flying open. I want his misses to be around the plate. So hopefully, he gets there today.”

Gray throws a whopping seven pitches: four-seam fastball, cutter, slider, curveball, sweeper, changeup and sinker. While the Nats would like to see him focus on a couple of them, they’re fine with him trying out as many as he wants in his rehab starts. As long as he throws them for strikes.

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Game 69 lineups: Nats vs. Marlins

rosario

The Nationals are back home after a quick 2-1 road trip to Detroit. They started the last homestand by getting swept in three games by the Mets and then losing the opener to the Braves. But they rebounded to win the next three against Atlanta before stretching the winning streak to five with two victories over the Tigers.

They’ll look to continue their winning ways and get this six-game homestand off to a strong start tonight against the Marlins.

MacKenzie Gore will be the first of three left-handers the Nats will start this Father’s Day Weekend. He was supposed to make his 14th start yesterday in Detroit, but the Nats pushed him back a day while he's dealing with a fingernail issue. Despite spending his entire major league career to date in the National League, he has never faced the Marlins.

The Nats outscored the Marlins 33-16 over a four-game sweep in Miami back in April, so the bats will try to continue to produce against a pitching staff that owns the second-worst ERA (4.67) and WHIP (1.372) and fifth-worst average against (.253) in the NL.

The Marlins are listing right-hander Shaun Anderson as tonight's starting pitcher as the opener to a bullpen game. Miami purchased Anderson from the Rangers a couple of weeks ago. He was originally drafted by the Nats in the 40th round in 2013, but did not sign. He is the only righty scheduled to start in this series.

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Camaraderie growing with young injured players around clubhouse

cavalli

The Nationals have been building a lot on the field over the past couple of years. The rebuilding process to return to a highly competitive level is never easy. They have made significant strides, while currently looking at one of their more successful seasons in a while.

But what they are building off the field may be just as important as the on-field results.

General manager Mike Rizzo has put together a nucleus of young players tasked with carrying this team back to the top of the baseball world. Manager Davey Martinez has been tasked with getting all of those young pieces to mesh.

Unfortunately, two of those young pieces have been sidelined for most of this year: Josiah Gray, who landed on the 15-day injured list after just two starts, and Cade Cavalli, who is still on his way back from last year’s Tommy John surgery.

Yes, their progress on the mound has slowed. But their development as teammates, key individuals in the clubhouse and pieces of this franchise’s future has actually grown.

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Irvin handles Braves again, Harvey bounces back in win (updated)

irvin pitching gray

Looking to snap a four-game losing streak, the Nationals found themselves in a similar situation as they were last night against the Braves: Holding a two-run lead with their starter pitching a shutout.

Last night, it was Mitchell Parker taking a no-hit bid into the sixth. He then gave up a two-run home run to tie the game in the seventh. The Nats would go on to lose 5-2.

Tonight, it was Jake Irvin, who was also taking the mound against the Braves for the second time in a week, dominating the opposing lineup with a two-run lead. And thanks to a bounceback night by Hunter Harvey and Kyle Finnegan's 17th save, he was victorious over Atlanta.

The Nationals beat the Braves 2-1 in front of an announced sellout crowd of 39,175, many of whom are probably sticking around for the Flo Rida postgame concert at Nats Park.

“He was good," manager Davey Martinez said of his starting pitcher. "Another guy to face the Braves this last week. Goes out and pitches really well against them again. That's a tough team, as we all know. They get hit, so what our two starters did these first two games was pretty impressive. It really was. He kept us in a ballgame. We faced a tough pitcher. We just got enough runs. Sometimes just one more than the other guys helps, right? So I'm proud of the guys. They fought all game, we hung and then Finney came in and closed the door.”

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Gray to begin rehab assignment on Sunday, Cavalli's next start TBD

Josiah Gray blue road

Confirmed: Josiah Gray will begin his long-awaited rehab assignment on Sunday with Single-A Fredericksburg.

After being cleared earlier this week to pitch in a competitive game for the first time in almost two months, the Nationals have finally locked down the date and time for the right-hander to retake the hill.

The FredNats take on the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers (White Sox) at Virginia Credit Union Stadium at 1:35 p.m. Gray will look to complete about three innings.

“We're looking for three ups, 50-55 pitches,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame media session. “If we get through that, that would be a good day for him. Then what we want to do is bring him back here after that. Let him go through his workouts here. And if everything goes well, the next one will probably be in Harrisburg. And then we'll go from there.”

Gray landed on the 15-day injured list on April 9 (retroactive to April 6) with a right elbow/forearm flexor strain. He had only made two starts to that point, giving up 15 hits, 13 runs and five walks with nine strikeouts over 8 ⅓ innings.

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Game 63 lineups: Nats vs. Braves

irvin pitching white

Usually when a team is in the midst of a four-game losing streak, they’ll look to their starting pitcher to be the stopper. Well, Mitchell Parker pitched well enough last night to do just that, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning. It’s the Nationals offense – which has scored two or fewer runs in 25 of 62 games – that has been this team’s undoing.

Jake Irvin is the next starter up to try and stop this losing skid. He will make his second start against the Braves in his last three times taking the hill, striking out a career-high 10 batters over six shutout innings last week in Atlanta. The right-hander used a balanced mix of his four-seam fastball and curveball in that fantastic start, so it will be interesting to see how he decides to attack Braves hitters tonight. And how they adjust to him after having little success facing Parker for the second time.

Chris Sale makes his 12th start for the Braves after he was acquired in December via a trade with the Red Sox and signed a two-year, $38 million extension with an $18 million club option for the 2026 season. The veteran left-hander is 8-1 with a 3.06 ERA and 0.946 WHIP, which are actually inflated after he was charged with eight runs, nine hits, a walk and four strikeouts over just four innings in his last start against the Athletics.

Sale leads the National League with a 2.49 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), 1.3 walks-per-nine-innings rate and 8.20 strikeout-to-walk rate. That’s a statistical way of saying he throws strikes, so the Nats need to get him in the zone. He also gets deep into games, pitching into the sixth inning in all but one of his starts so far and completing seven frames six times. He is averaging just over 93 pitches per start, so if the Nats attack early in the count, they better make sure it’s worth it.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. ATLANTA BRAVES
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 6:45 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, DC 87.7 (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 81 degrees, wind 15 mph from left to right field

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Rosario soaks in ovation and contributes to Nats' wins in return to Atlanta

Eddie Rosario

ATLANTA – As Eddie Rosario walked to the plate for the first time on Monday, Braves catcher Sean Murphy moved from his normal position behind it to in front of it, unofficially pausing the game. He knew what was about to happen.

The public address announcer introduced Rosario as the Nationals’ fourth batter in the first inning and the crowd of 38,858 fans stood up and applauded, an unusual thing to do for an opposing player. But Rosario wasn’t any ordinary opposing player.

The 32-year-old outfielder, who played three seasons with the Braves while winning the 2021 World Series and being named the National League Championship Series MVP along the way, tried to let the ovation pass. But the applause grew louder.

Finally, Rosario stepped out of the box, took off his helmet, waved it to the crowd and patted his heart in appreciation. He also acknowledged his former teammates and coaches who had joined the moment from the home dugout and playing field.

Then he hit the third pitch he saw from Charlie Morton down the left field line for an RBI double, giving his new team an early lead over his former squad.

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Nats stick to winning formula to win series against Braves (updated)

meneses batting gray

ATLANTA – The Nationals won two of the first three games against the Braves with some big hits and great pitching. They haven’t always gotten home runs, but they got one from CJ Abrams on Monday and one from Lane Thomas on Wednesday. They haven’t always seen their starter go deep in the game, but Mitchell Parker, Jake Irvin and MacKenzie Gore combined for 17 ⅔ innings.

With a chance to win the four-game series, the Nationals went back to the recipe for success that has helped them win most of their games thus far this season. And it was some good cooking that resulted in a 3-1 victory in front of 37,784 fans, who also watched the Nats win the set.

As it has for the past week, it started on the mound. The Nationals stuck to their plan that has proven to be very successful with Trevor Williams, who completed 5 ⅔ innings of one-run ball with four hits, two walks and two strikeouts on 95 pitches, 56 strikes.

“Going into the fourth game of a series, you get a good feel for what the lineup is going to do," Williams said after the game. "And all the guys the last three days gave tremendous outings. So for them to do what they did, we were able to execute our game plan for the most part. It was a well-fought win for us. Thankful for the guys behind me that they were able to make some plays and we were able to execute some pitches and get us out of some jams.”

The only run scored on him came in the third when Jarred Kelenic hit a triple to left that Eddie Rosario missed while sliding, and then Michael Harris II scored him with a sacrifice fly on the first pitch.

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Gray throws another live BP, Cavalli making another rehab start tonight

gray pitching blue

ATLANTA – Josiah Gray threw another live bullpen session today, one more step closer to returning from the 15-day injured list.

Gray landed on the IL with a right elbow/forearm flexor strain after just two starts in which he allowed 13 runs in 8 ⅓ innings. But after a long and patient rehab process, he finally returned to a mound to face live hitters for the first time on Saturday at Nationals Park.

He only threw 23 pitches, plus 27 warmup pitches, that first time. He got up to 76 today, including his warmups, at Truist Park while mixing in his off-speed stuff more.

“It was good. Better,” said manager Davey Martinez, who watched Gray alongside pitching coach Jim Hickey. “He threw a total of 76 pitches. And he threw the ball well. His breaking ball was sharp. A lot better today than it was the other day. Fastball was coming out pretty good. So he's doing good. He's in a good place right now. We'll continue to build him up and then we'll see where we go from there. I think he'll have one more live and then we'll make a decision and what we're going to do next.”

Likely to stay on a normal five-day rotation, the 26-year-old’s next live BP will come next week back in D.C. after the Nationals return from Cleveland.

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Game 55 lineups: Nats at Braves

williams pitching gray

ATLANTA – A victory tonight will give the Nationals their second win in a four-game series this season, the first coming as a sweep in their only other four-game set to date in Miami last month. 

Trevor Williams will look to continue this dominant stretch by Nats starting pitchers. Nationals starters have pitched to a 2.36 ERA (11 earned runs in 42 innings) with 52 strikeouts and just five walks over the last seven games. Williams contributed to that with five innings of one-run ball, no walks and eight strikeouts on Saturday. He’s 4-0 with a 2.29 ERA and 1.078 WHIP in 10 starts.

Williams and Stephen Strasburg (8-0 in 2016) are the only two Nats starters (2005-present) to not suffer a loss through their first 10 starts of a season. Let’s see if Williams can make it 11.

Besides being shut out on Tuesday, the Nats have scored 15 runs this series. They were supposed to face former Nationals farmhand Reynaldo López, but will instead see lefty Ray Kerr. The 29-year-old made his first start on May 24 this season, where he allowed five runs in four innings against the Pirates. 

The original starter López was packaged with Lucas Giolito and Dane Dunning in the December 2016 trade with the White Sox for Adam Eaton. He and Giolito were then traded together again last year to the Angels, with López being selected off waivers by the Guardians a month later.

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On the Nats' great starting pitching stretch

MacKenzie Gore

ATLANTA – The Nationals have always focused on starting pitching. They boasted some of the best rotations between 2012-19, en route to winning four division titles, a National League Wild Card berth and a World Series championship.

Now after a few lean years, they’re starting to see a new generation emerge as one of the best rotations in baseball. And over the last week, manager Davey Martinez, pitching coach Jim Hickey and pitching strategist Sean Doolittle have their young rotation on an impressive stretch.

Following last night’s 7-2 win over the Braves, Nationals starters have pitched to a 2.36 ERA (11 earned runs in 42 innings) with 52 strikeouts and just five walks over the last seven games.

During that stretch, Jake Irvin has allowed two runs and two walks with 16 strikeouts in 12 ⅓ innings over his last two starts. MacKenzie Gore has allowed three runs (two earned) and one walk with 18 strikeouts in 12 ⅓ innings over his last two starts. Mitchell Parker gave up three runs and no walks with six strikeouts over six innings on Monday. Trevor Williams gave up one run and no walks with eight strikeouts in five innings on Saturday. And even Patrick Corbin turned in a quality start Sunday, giving up four runs (three earned) and two walks with four strikeouts in six innings.

“They're pitching really well,” Martinez said. “They’ve got the fastball. We always talk about how McKenzie's stuff is really good. They're utilizing his fastball, but they're also mixing in the breaking balls when they need to, and they've been effective. And they're getting better at being efficient. That's what I love about him. Hickey talks about that every day with these guys, understanding what you can do in certain situations. They're buying in and doing well.”

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Thomas homers and Gore fans 10, but Senzel injured in Nats' win (updated)

gore pitching gray

ATLANTA – Davey Martinez cautioned his team about the challenges facing a new pitcher ahead of tonight’s game against the Braves.

Right-hander Spencer Schwellenbach made his major league debut for the home team three years after being drafted, having Tommy John surgery and making only 24 minor league starts between last year and the start of this season, topping out at Double-A two weeks ago.

Was the plan to be more patient or aggressive against the rookie?

“You could look at it both ways,” Martinez said before the game. “Like I said, you want to get strikes. We got a young team that is very aggressive and they love to swing. But you gotta get him in the zone. … The key is to work some at-bats, see some pitches, see what he's got and then go from there.”

For the first half of the game, the Nats couldn’t decide if they wanted to be patient or aggressive against Schwellenbach. Some guys battled long at-bats, while others took hacks early. Either way, it led to poor results, going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and leaving four runners on base into the fifth inning.

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Pregame notes on Nats facing debuting starter, Negro Leagues stats and Cavalli’s rehab

cavalli pitching blue

ATLANTA – The Nationals have another tough pitching matchup in tonight’s game against the Braves. Not because it’s another established major leaguer like Charlie Morton or Max Fried. But because it’s a 23-year-old making his first major league start.

Right-hander Spencer Schwellenbach had his contract selected to the Braves roster this morning to make his debut tonight. It’s not the first time the Nats have faced a young pitcher making his debut, but it still proves to be difficult when there’s only so much to scout beforehand.

“He's new. He's an up-and-coming young prospect,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame media session on how his team is preparing to face Schwellenbach. “So we did our due diligence, watched a bunch of videos. But our guys get to face him for the first time. So for me, as a young player, as a team facing a new guy, you should be a little excited. The big thing is we gotta get him in the strike zone. He might have a little nerves. But get him in the strike zone and swing at good pitches.”

Schwellenbach, the Braves’ No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline, provides an especially difficult challenge because he doesn’t have a lot of film to study. A second-round draft pick out of Nebraska in 2021, he had Tommy John surgery immediately after the draft and started his minor league career last year, making 16 starts between Single-A and High-A.

He started this season at High-A Rome for eight starts before being promoted two weeks ago to Double-A Mississippi, where he struck out 51 batters in 45 innings and did not allow a run over 13 innings.

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