Nats trying to get Gray's delivery closed back up

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ATLANTA – The Nationals have worked diligently with Josiah Gray on his mechanics since the end of last year.

In 2022, the right-hander’s first full season in the bigs, he gave up a major league-worst 38 home runs and a National League-worst 66 walks en route to a 5.02 ERA and 1.359 WHIP.

The team wanted their young starter to finish his pitches straighter toward the plate instead of flying open toward the first base line. And for the most part this year, he’s much improved.

After his rough season debut against the Braves, in which he gave up five runs on three home runs, Gray went through an eight-start stretch of giving up just 11 earned runs and two homers over 47 ⅔ innings for a 2.08 ERA and struck out more than double the amount of batters he walked.

But over his last six starts, including the five innings he completed in last night’s 3-2 loss to the Braves, some old habits are starting to creep back. Gray walked four Friday night, the fifth time in his last six starts he’s surrendered three or more free passes. He now has a 1.470 WHIP over that stretch.

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Gray battles command issues, Finnegan battles fortune in loss to Braves (updated)


ATLANTA – The Nats are in the middle of a brutal stretch. Tonight began the fifth of six straight series in which they are facing division leaders, defending pennant winners and reigning world champions.

No one is going to feel sorry for them. But this 3-2 loss to the Braves in front of 40,297 at Truist Park felt pretty painful, with a one-run lead turning into a one-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth.

“Tough loss," manager Davey Martinez said after the game. "We played well 'til the bottom of the eighth. As I always say, when you give good teams extra outs, they're gonna get you. And that's what we did in the bottom of the eighth.”

With the Nationals six outs away from a series-opening victory, Kyle Finnegan ran into some tough luck in the bottom of the eighth as the Braves scored two runs (one earned) to take the lead and extend Atlanta’s streak of five straight come-from-behind victories and six straight wins overall.

Finnegan took a liner from Sean Murphy off the lower half of his body for a leadoff infield single. Then another single by Eddie Rosario just got past Luis García and the batter advanced to second on an error by Lane Thomas in right field to put two in scoring position.

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Martinez on Robles, Doolittle and La Sorsa

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ATLANTA – Before their finale against the Diamondbacks was postponed due to poor air quality yesterday, the Nationals announced they were sending Victor Robles to Triple-A Rochester on a rehab assignment.

Robles has been sidelined since he hurt his back by sliding into second base in Arizona on May 6. Up until recently, he had been very limited in what rehab work he could actually do. But has he started to improve, he was able to do more and more physical activity and is now ready to play in games.

“Victor will play tonight in Rochester and we'll see how he gets through it,” manager Davey Martinez said during his media session before tonight’s series opener against the Braves. “He'll probably get maybe four, maybe five innings. So we'll see how he gets through it.”

Robles is hitting third and playing center field for the Red Wings tonight in Worcester.

Needing a bounceback season, the 26-year-old was off to a solid start to the season before his injury. In 31 games, he was hitting .292 with a .388 on-base percentage and .748 OPS. He scored 13 runs, hit four doubles, one triple and eight RBIs and stole a team-high eight bases while walking at the highest rate of his career (9.4 percent).

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Game 62 lineups: Nats at Braves

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ATLANTA – The Nationals have escaped the haze that engulfed the Washington, D.C. area and forced a postponement of yesterday’s series finale against the Diamondbacks. Now they find themselves outside downtown Atlanta to take on the Braves for three games, their first against the division leaders since the opening series of the season.

The Nationals enter this weekend having lost seven out of their last nine. For what it’s worth, the Braves also struggled to end May, going through a stretch of losing seven of 11, before turning it around to win six of their last seven, including a three-game sweep of the Mets here this week.

With yesterday’s postponement, Davey Martinez gave his starters an extra day of rest, with Josiah Gray now starting tonight’s opener. The right-hander’s 3.09 ERA is the lowest in the rotation, but he has struggled as of late. He did not complete six innings in any of his last three starts, giving up seven runs over 14 ⅓ innings (4.40 ERA) in the process.

Gray’s worst outing of the year came against these very Braves in his first start, in the Nats’ second game of the season. He gave up five runs and three home runs – including one each to the first two batters he faced – over seven innings while taking a 7-1 loss. In his career, he is 1-2 with a 3.33 ERA and 1.037 WHIP over five starts against Atlanta. He has, though, pitched well here at Truist Park, going 1-0 and allowing just one earned run in 10 innings over two starts.

The Braves are sending 20-year-old right-hander AJ Smith-Shawver to the mound for his first major league start. The Braves' No. 4 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, Smith-Shawver impressed in his big league debut, pitching 2 ⅓ scoreless innings with three strikeouts Sunday against the Diamondbacks. He had a 1.09 ERA, 0.939 WHIP, 12.3 strikeout-per-nine rate and 3.75 strikeout-per-walk rate over seven starts between High-A and Triple-A to begin this season on the Braves farm.

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Cate could provide future lefty relief for Nats

Tim Cate Harrisburg

The Nationals’ lack of a left-hander in their bullpen finally came back to bite them over the weekend while dropping two of three to the Phillies.

Andrés Machado, who gave up the decisive blow in the form of a three-run home run to Kyle Schwarber in Sunday’s 11-3 loss, appears to have been designated for assignment and right-hander Jordan Weems seems to be the reliever replacing him from Triple-A Rochester.

So when will they finally have a southpaw in the ‘pen?

Sean Doolittle, while close to returning from his minor league rehab assignment, still seems like he needs more time on the farm before being selected back to the major league club. Jose Ferrer and Alberto Baldonado have less than impressive numbers at Rochester, and Matt Cronin is on the injured list with a 5.04 ERA in 14 appearances, the last one on May 20.

What about further down the system?

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Gore still trying to improve against lefties

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MacKenzie Gore is working on a lot of things in his first season with the Nationals. He’s only 24 years old and now only has 28 games of major league experience under his belt.

One thing the left-hander really wants to improve on is getting left-handed batters out.

“I should get left-handers out,” Gore said after yesterday’s 4-2 loss to the Phillies. “Left-handers don't like hitting left-handed pitching.”

So far in his young career, Gore is a reverse-splits pitcher. Coming into yesterday’s start, he had surrendered a .293/.429/.453 slash line with a .881 OPS and 1.23 strikeout-per-walk rate against left-handed batters. He had given up a slash line of .235/.312/.370 with a .683 OPS and 2.92 K/BB rate to righties.

Is he surprised that he had reverse splits?

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Nats' bats cool against Phillies bullpen in loss (updated)

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The Nationals were in position today to be somewhere they haven’t been since April 3: Anywhere but last place in the National League East.

Last night’s dramatic 8-7 victory gave them the same record as the defending National League champion Phillies, who also happen to be in town this weekend. A win today would have put them ahead of them in the division standings.

With an electric young pitcher in MacKenzie Gore on the mound and a lineup that’s been heating up facing a group of relievers, the Nats had a good chance to vault out of the basement. But after scoring 18 runs over their last two games, the offense cooled down and wasn’t able to produce enough in a 4-2 loss in front of an announced crowd of 30,959.

“We just couldn't get the offense going today," manager Davey Martinez said after the game. "I thought MacKenzie threw the ball well. Made a couple of mistakes, but other than that he was around the zone all day and gave us a good six innings. Just the bats were stale today.”

After one of the best outings of his young career, Gore was able to turn in back-to-back quality starts for the first time since late April.

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Nats' plan for Phillies' bullpen game

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Last night’s wild 8-7 win was significant for the Nationals in that it brought them into a tie with the defending National League champion Phillies in the division standings.

Davey Martinez, always focused on going 1-0 every single day, managed in a way to give the Nats the best opportunity to come away with a series-opening victory. Put your best stuff out there today and worry about tomorrow later.

Well, tomorrow is today, and there are some possible ramifications from last night’s game.

Martinez deployed his “A” bullpen last night after starter Josiah Gray couldn’t get out of the sixth inning. Carl Edwards Jr. (20 pitches), Hunter Harvey (16), Mason Thompson (11) and Kyle Finnegan (34) all threw a decent amount and in high-leverage situations.

Finnegan, whose pitch count set a new career high, is probably unavailable today, as the Nats try to jump the Phillies in the National League East. But the rest of the bullpen may be available to pitch in some capacity if needed, assuming their pregame work goes well.

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Game 58 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies

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For the first time since mid-April, the Nationals will have a chance to stand alone outside the basement of the National League East. And for the second straight game, the Nationals’ future will be on display against its past.

MacKenzie Gore gets his first shot at former Nats Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber as a National. He did face each of them over his 16 appearances with the Padres last year: Harper went 0-for-3 with a strikeout; Turner went 2-for-2 with an RBI double and was hit by a pitch; and Schwarber went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk.

Gore is coming off a career-high 11 strikeouts in seven innings of one-run ball on Sunday against the Royals. On the year, the lefty is 3-3 with a 3.57 ERA, 1.414 WHIP and 11.5 strikeout-per-nine-innings rate.

Left-hander Matt Strahm is starting a bullpen game for the Phillies this afternoon. He’s 4-3 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.042 WHIP in 15 appearances (seven starts) this season. Strahm is expected to go at least two innings for manager Rob Thomson, who had to use four relievers last night after Zack Wheeler couldn’t get out of the fourth.

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 The Fan,
Weather: Cloudy with chance of storms, 81 degrees, wind 11 mph in from right field

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Wood and Hassell excited to share outfield for first time


BOWIE, Md. – One small step for a single prospect became a giant leap for the Nationals organization last weekend.

When James Wood was promoted from High-A Wilmington to Double-A Harrisburg on Sunday, on the surface level it could be seen as just a fast-rising prospect moving up another minor league level. But for the Nationals, it signified what the franchise is hoping to accomplish when it decided to undergo this rebuild in 2021 and fast track it by trading a major league superstar in Juan Soto last summer.

Wood was one of the five prospects the Nats received in the Soto trade with the Padres. Since joining the organization, he has risen as its top prospect and as one of the highest rated prospects in all of baseball.

Though he played well enough at the end of last season, Wood didn’t get a promotion to Wilmington, instead helping Single-A Fredericksburg on their postseason run. He started this season with the Blue Rocks, but only lasted 42 games, earning an early promotion on Memorial Day weekend.

The 20-year-old outfielder hit .293 with nine doubles, five triples, eight homers, 26 walks, 36 RBIs, eight stolen bases, a .392 on-base percentage and a .972 OPS with Wilmington.

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Thomas finding consistency in leadoff spot


Lane Thomas is on a heater this month. In 23 games so far in May, he's slashing .326/.367/.620 with a .987 OPS, four doubles, a triple, all seven of his season’s home runs, 15 RBIs and 19 runs scored.

That’s a complete 180-degree turnaround from April, when he hit slashed .260/.327/.302 with a .629 OPS and just four extra-base hits.

Thomas is hoping he can take his production this month and stay consistent throughout the season. One correlation to his strong May is his consistent place atop the Nationals lineup. It may not be the exact reason, but there are definitely parallels.

“I don't know if it has to do with just leadoff or not leadoff,” Thomas said. “I think I've said this before just trying to be a little more consistent at the plate was just my focus this offseason and spring training and now. Just being more consistent with getting swings off in good counts and just get a little confidence in doing that.”

The 27-year-old only hit leadoff eight times over his 25 games in April, with Alex Call getting most of the at-bats in the top spot. But starting May 6, Thomas been put in the leadoff spot in every game he’s played since. Over those 18 games, he’s slashing .325/.374/.571 with a .945 OPS, four doubles, five homers, 11 RBIs and 16 runs scored.

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Nats come back, but eventually lose on Harvey's blown save (updated)


The Nationals’ clutch hits have come in bunches. Either they get a lot or none at all.

And their bullpen hasn’t always been clutch. Either its lockdown or shaky.

For the first half of today’s finale against the Padres, it looked like it was going to be one of those games where they would get neither. But then the script flipped in the seventh inning, as the Nats put up five runs to take a 6-5 lead and the relievers kept that way for Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey in the eighth and ninth.

Finnegan made it through his inning clean. But Harvey, seeking his third save of the season, couldn’t close out the victory.

Facing the Padres’ 2-3-4 hitters, Harvey gave up back-to-back singles to Jake Cronenworth and Juan Soto (who finished the day 1-for-1 with four walks). Harvey was able to then strike out the next two batters, but then served up a three-run home run to Rougned Odor on a 99 mph fastball that ended up just inside the right field foul pole.

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Nats finding success against high volume of lefty starters

Dominic Smith gray

The Nationals have had a rough go to the start of the season in terms of opposing starting pitchers. They’re facing left-handed starters at a higher rate than usual, which early on led to some inconsistencies in their lineup constructions.

When the Nats face the Padres’ Blake Snell in this afternoon’s series finale, it will be their 19th time in their first 50 games facing an opposing lefty starter. That’s almost a 40 percent rate, unusually high over the first two months of the season, with possibly more on the way.

“Yes,” manager Davey Martinez answered during his pregame media session when asked if this amount of opposing left-handed starters is unusual. “We've seen a lot of lefties. I think we'll get another one too in Kansas City. So yeah, we have seen quite a bit of lefties. But the thing about it is our left-handed hitters are not doing bad against them, it's kind of nice.”

It’s almost ironic that the Nationals have faced this many southpaws to start the year. Over the offseason, the focus was on acquiring a left-handed-hitting corner outfielder and possibly a backup lefty first baseman to fill out the roster. They were able to get both and then some.

Corey Dickerson was the left corner outfielder and Dominic Smith was the starting left-handed first baseman, allowing Joey Meneses to shift to designated hitter full time. Add switch-hitter Jeimer Candelario and the Nats could actually have more lefty bats than righty in their lineup on a given night.

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Game 50 lineups: Nats vs. Padres

Jake irvin blues

How are we at Game 50 already? It’s almost Memorial Day Weekend and this season seems to be flying by.

Also, who would have taken a 21–28 Nationals record through the first 49 games? That’s a three-game improvement from where they were at this point last season.

To add one more to the win column and take this three-game series against the Padres, the Nats will turn to Jake Irvin, who is 1-2 with 5.50 ERA and 1.611 WHIP over his first four major league starts. After allowing only one earned run over his first two starts, he’s allowed 10 over his last two, going only 7 ⅓ innings. The young right-hander will look to get back to what led to his early success.

The Padres are throwing veteran left-hander Blake Snell for this getaway-day finale. The 30-year-old has struggled to start the year, going 1-6 with a 5.60 ERA and 1.556 WHIP over his first nine starts. He was knocked around for six runs in just four innings in his last start against the Red Sox.

Snell is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA and 1.182 WHIP in four career starts against the Nats.

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Doolittle throwing back-to-back days, plus other updates

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Sean Doolittle is making a significant step in his recovery from an elbow procedure done last year.

Rehabbing at the Nationals' facility in West Palm Beach, Doolittle will start throwing on back-to-back days, the next benchmark he’s been working toward for a while.

“Sean Doolittle is gonna go back-to-back days now,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame media session. “Once he does that, then we'll reassess and go from there.”

The veteran left-hander was limited to just 5 ⅓ innings in six games with the Nationals last year before being shut down with an elbow injury. After trying to just rest it, Doolittle decided to undergo a similar but less invasive procedure as Tommy John surgery with the hope that he would recover faster and be able to pitch this season.

He reported to spring training healthy on a minor league deal, but was ultimately shut down out of precaution of ramping up too fast. If Doolittle feels good after throwing back-to-back games, the Nationals could start looking to get him into game action.

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Smith spends Saturday with young ballplayers in D.C.

Dominic Smith youth baseball

It’s common during homestands to find Nationals players out and about in D.C., getting active in the community. The organization has been committed to giving back to the area for a long time, centered around its Youth Baseball Academy.

But the players don’t have to be at the academy to get involved in youth baseball around town. That’s why Dominic Smith and other Nats players found themselves in Livingston Park in Chevy Chase yesterday morning with a group of Capitol City Little League kids – my 8-year-old nephew Jack included – ahead of their late-afternoon game.

“I had a great time today,” Smith said Saturday before the Nats’ 5-2 win over the Tigers. “Over there, Capitol City Little League, got to see a bunch of different age groups from like 8 to like 12. And just to see them, see the energy that they brought, I kind of fed off of that and I had a great time. Those kids are very competitive. They got some really good coaches out there because some of those swings were really impressive, especially for the age groups. And it was just fun. It was a great day to just spend some time with them and get to show them who I am as a person because sometimes they don't get to see stuff like that.”

Smith and the kids went through typical baseball drills like hitting balls off a practice tee. It must feel good as a kid to get a couple of good hacks in and have a major leaguer be impressed by your swing.

And the kids should be impressed by Smith’s swing as of late. Before yesterday’s 0-for-4 outing, he had been hitting .343 over his previous 20 games to raise his batting average by 54 points.

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Nats complete comeback this time in win over Tigers (updated)


The Nationals’ rally last night came up just short. Down 8-0 in the series opener to the Tigers, they were able to come back to make it a two-run game late, but eventually fell 8-6.

They faced another deficit Saturday. Though this one was not nearly as large, they were able to complete the comeback for a 5-2 win in front of 31,721 fans on a beautiful day at Nats Park.

Patrick Corbin got them in a hole early by giving up a first-pitch single to Matt Vierling to start the game and then a two-run home run to slugger Spencer Torkelson three batters later. It wasn’t necessarily a bad pitch – a 92 mph four-seam fastball in the upper right corner of the strike zone – but Torkelson was just able to muscle it out.

“It was a fastball up," the left-hander said of the home run ball after the game. "Tried to get it in, kind of leaked out over. But still felt really good. Located fastball well today. They're a pretty aggressive team, so a lot of quick outs and some early hits that I gave up as well. But defense was great behind me. Overall, felt pretty good.”

As Corbin has done more often this season than in the past three, he didn’t let the early homer derail his start. He was steady from that point on to turn in his fourth straight quality start and his sixth in his last seven outings.

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Kuhl reinstated to bullpen, Harris optioned to Rochester

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The Nationals have made their decision on Chad Kuhl. He was officially reinstated from the 15-day injured list, while Hobie Harris was optioned to Triple-A Rochester.

Kuhl had been on the  IL with a right foot issue since April 30 and threw 65 pitches over four simulated innings Monday. He played catch yesterday before the Nats made their final decision on the roster move.

The other intriguing part of his return is that the Nationals plan to utilize him out of the bullpen. That is so they can both monitor his innings while he provides length in the ‘pen and keep Jake Irvin in the rotation.

“It gives us length in the bullpen, which will be nice,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame media session. “But he's just coming back, so I want to make sure, as we do this, that he probably gets clean innings. But he definitely gives us multiple innings if we need. The last sim game, he threw the ball exceptionally well. He was up in the mid-90s with his fastball, was throwing strikes. Slider was really, really good. So that was encouraging. So we'll get him in the bullpen and get him going. And then we'll see where it takes us.”

Other options included having him go on a minor league rehab assignment to build up his pitch count more. The Nats also could have kept him here to pitch another sim game. Or they could have activated him back into the rotation and optioned Irvin back to Rochester.

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Game 46 lineups: Nats vs. Tigers

corbin fires white

Happy Star Wars Day from Nationals Park! The team is giving away dueling light side vs. dark side Hawaiian shirts to fans today, so make sure you get to the gates on time.

On the field, the pitching duel sees Patrick Corbin making his 10th start of the season for the light side and Alex Faedo starting for the dark side.

Corbin is 2-5 with a 4.65 ERA and 1.430 WHIP entering this afternoon’s game. He has pitched much better over his last six starts, to the tune of a 3.47 ERA, though he is only 1-3 in those outings and the Nats have split them evenly.

Faedo is the only right-hander scheduled to start for the Tigers this weekend. The 27-year-old former first-round pick is making his third start of the season. He is 0-1 with a 4.22 ERA over his first two, with the Tigers having lost both games. He is 1-5 with a 5.32 ERA and 1.492 WHIP over the first 14 starts of his young career.

There’s a chance of rain tonight, supposedly starting around 6 p.m. Here's hoping we can avoid a repeat of last Saturday’s suspended game and either finish this one in time or avoid getting wet all together.

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Still full of joy, Sánchez retires after lengthy career and World Series title

Anibal Sanchez NLCS

MIAMI – Aníbal Sánchez’s career was one that was well traveled. Sixteen major league seasons brought him many personal accomplishments, which all led to the ultimate prize in his last true full campaign.

So when the 39-year-old finally made the decision to retire and he sat down to write out his announcement before posting it on his Instagram account, he had a lot to look back on and be proud of.

“I think just yesterday when I post my (announcement) and I noticed everybody that I'm retiring, I saw 17 years pass in two minutes and a half. It was incredible,” Sánchez said Wednesday afternoon in the Nationals dugout at loanDepot Park with media members from both Washington and Miami surrounding him and his family looking on. “Sounds easy, but it's not like that. The most thing that I'm proud of me through my whole career, I past bad moments and I had always the power to come back and keep going in my career.”

Sánchez retired after 16 major league seasons. He spent parts of seven with the Marlins, parts of six with the Tigers, one with the Braves and the last three with the Nationals. He is the owner of a no-hitter, one of the most impressive postseason performances in history and a World Series championship ring.

“I think for me, every single day I come to the field and most of the things that I say to the guys is just working hard,” he said. “It's a sport for everybody else, but it's work and a job for us. So take it serious, work hard and we're going to have time for everything. For having fun, for working out, for preparing our game, for being outside and making it a good show for the fans and also make some wins for the team.”

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