PHILADELPHIA – Josiah Gray came into his 20th start of the season tonight looking to rebound from a tough July and continue his success against the Phillies.
The right-hander posted a 6.75 ERA over five starts in July, capped off by allowing four runs in five innings Sunday against the Cardinals. He posted a 1.13 ERA in four June starts.
He also handled this Phillies lineup well the first two times facing it this season with six shutout innings on June 18 and an 11-strikeout performance on July 6.
Neither the rebound nor the Philly success presented itself tonight, as Gray was rocked by the Phillies en route to a 7-2 loss at Citizens Bank Park.
It started right from the get-go as Gray gave up three home runs in a single inning for the first time in his career. Rhys Hoskins, just as he did in his fist at-bat last night against Paolo Espino, hit the second offering from Gray (a 93 mph fastball up in the zone) for a solo home run to left field.
Two batters later, J.T. Realmuto was awarded a triple when he laid a hit in front of Victor Robles that got past the center fielder and rolled all the way to the wall. Then Nick Castellanos hit a two-run shot to left field and Darick Hall hit a solo homer to right for an early 4-0 lead.
“Everything,” Gray said of what wasn't working for him tonight. “I left the balls too much middle. I tried to get in there on Hoskins, Castellanos and Realmuto. Just left it middle. They did what they're supposed to do. Yeah, nothing really went well tonight.”
Gray was able to get through a 1-2-3 second inning on 17 pitches, but then his troubles with the longball came back in the third. A leadoff walk to Hoskins set up Realmuto’s two-run shot to left field for a 6-0 Phillies lead.
Manager Davey Martinez pulled Gray after back-to-back walks to start the fifth. Gray finished the night with four innings plus two batters, five hits, four home runs, six runs, three walks and four strikeouts. His ERA inflated from 4.59 to 4.92, continuing his rough stretch from July.
“Just his misses. Just he was up in his zone,” Martinez said. “Every ball that got hit hard was up and his misses were almost right down the middle. So talked to him a little bit when he came out of the game about just working down, working down in the zone. If he's gonna miss, he can't miss over the plate. He settled down a little bit after, but he had the pitch count, and at that point I talked to (Jim) Hickey about just getting him out. Give him a little breather. We'll start him again in five days.”
“Just not a lot went my way,” Grays said. “Just up there kind of searching, in terms of just trying to get in the flow of the game and trying to give the team something. But tonight obviously wasn't my night. It's a matter of coming back tomorrow and getting to work, but it's night wasn't my night. I couldn't really get in the flow. It's just definitely frustrating.”
As for the offense, it almost did something no Nationals offense has ever done: Have a perfect game or no-hitter thrown against them.
Phillies starter Kyle Gibson was cruising through Martinez’s lineup. He carried a perfect game through six innings on only 75 pitches. Through those six innings, Nats hitters only managed to hit four balls out of the infield, another display of the lack of power they now have.
“Quick at-bats,” Martinez said of his offense. “I mean like I said, we were trying to get the ball up, but the ball has so much depth sinking, we just kept hitting the ball on the ground. So we had to realize that hey, you guys really gotta get the ball up. And then when they look for the ball up, he threw a cutter to the lefties, got in on them. Got in on a couple of guys. But I was looking, I said, hey, we just got some open-ended cutters good. The sinker was just really good.”
But as Robles is known to do, he was hit by a pitch leading off the seventh inning, ending the perfect game bid. Luis García ended the no-hitter in the next at-bat by slapping a single the other way into left field.
There are rarely positives to take away from games like this, but the one here might be that the Nationals continued their streak of never being no-hit since arriving in D.C. It hasn’t happened to the franchise since 1999 when David Cone no-hit the Expos. Only the Athletics have a longer streak of not being no-hit. The Cardinals’ Michael Wacha was the only pitcher to carry a no-hit bid against the Nats into the ninth on Sept. 24, 2013. Ryan Zimmerman broke it up with a two-out infield single.
Ildemaro Vargas’s sac fly with the bases loaded in the eighth and Keibert Ruiz's RBI groundout in the ninth scored the Nats' only runs.
“We just had to try to get the ball up a little bit more,” Martinez said. “But like I said, his ball was moving quite a bit. Later in the game we hit the ball a lot better. But he was good.”
Unfortunately, we could see a lot of this from the Nationals over the last two months of the season. Not necessarily no-hit bids (although never say never), but starting pitching that struggles to get deep into games and an offense that can’t flex any muscle.
Not a great recipe for winning baseball in today’s game, but here we are.
* Josh Rogers elected free agency during tonight’s game. The Nationals designated him for assignment on Tuesday as one of the many roster moves made after the Juan Soto-Josh Bell trade. The left-hander went 2-2 with a 5.13 ERA for Washington this season.
* On the farm, outfielder James Wood went 4-for-6 with a two-run homer, three RBIs, a run scored, a stolen base and two strikeouts in his debut for low Single-A Fredericksburg. The FredNats lost 10-9 in 10 innings to the Down East Wood Ducks (Rangers).
Outfielder Robert Hassell III went 0-for-5 with a strikeout in the completion of last night’s suspended game and is currently 0-for-2 with a run scored (reaching on a fielder’s choice) an a strikeout in his first two games for high Single-A Wilmington. The Blue Rocks lost 7-6 in the conclusion of last night's game and 6-3 in today's regularly scheduled game to the Aberdeen IronBirds (Orioles).
Shortstop C.J. Abrams went 0-for-4 with an RBI, two strikeouts and a fielding error in his Triple-A Rochester debut. The Red Wings lost 8-5 to the Columbus Clippers (Guardians).