How the Nats busted Senga's "ghost forkball"

Joey Meneses Jeimer Candelario five gray

NEW YORK – The talk around the Big Apple the past two nights when it comes to baseball has been about the Nationals’ young starting pitchers. And rightfully so.

Josiah Gray (nine strikeouts over six shutout innings on Tuesday) and MacKenzie Gore (matching a career-high 10 strikeouts over six innings of one-run ball on Wednesday) have dominated recent headlines like they dominated the Mets lineup over the last two nights.

But lost in the pitching hysteria last night was how the Nats’ own lineup handled one of the more difficult pitches to face in the sport.

Kodai Senga, the 30-year-old right-hander the Mets signed to a five-year, $75 million deal over the offseason out of Japan, is known for throwing a “ghost forkball.” It’s not officially called that by any metric. If you look at his Statcast page, it’s just a forkball.

But it got its name from the way it comes at hitters like a fastball and just seems to disappear right before crossing the plate. Coming into last night’s start, the pitch had a 54 percent whiff rate and a 30 percent putaway rate. Opponents had managed just three hits in 25 at-bats ending with the forkball for a .120 average.

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Martinez repeating lineup for just the third time

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NEW YORK – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Davey Martinez hasn’t really followed that motto through this season’s first 22 games, still tinkering with his lineup to find the right combination while also keeping matchups in mind on any given night.

The Nationals have used 20 different batting orders through the first month of the season. Early on, it was largely due to the high volume of opposing left-handed starters they faced, causing Martinez to switch around the order a lot.

The only time the manager has trotted out the same lineup for back-to-back games was on April 14-15 against the Guardians and on April 16 and 18 against the Guardians and Orioles, all four against opposing right-handed starters.

Tonight’s second game against the Mets will mark the third time the Nationals will trot out the same lineup for consecutive games, with Alex Call leading off, Luis García remaining in the second spot, Jeimer Candelario hitting third, Joey Meneses batting cleanup, and Keibert Ruiz, Dominic Smith, Lane Thomas, CJ Abrams and Victor Robles following.

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A look at the remaining pitching market, plus other notes

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In case you missed it, Aaron Judge re-signed with the Yankees. It got pretty extensive coverage. And yes, most of the non-Yankees fans in the game are ready to move on to something else now.

As it relates to the Orioles, they added right-handed pitcher Kyle Gibson in recent days, but their search for a pitcher they can slot toward the top of their rotation is ongoing. Their choices are lessening.

The biggest pitching fish, or one of the three when free agency began, lefty Carlos Rodón is still out there. It would be a surprise if he ends up with the Orioles, but what a surprise it would be. Other pitchers that might have been in play for the Orioles have come off the board.

Right-hander Taijuan Walker signed with the Phillies for four years at $72 million. Right-hander Jameson Taillon joined the Cubs for four years at $68 million. José Quintana is joining the Mets and Andrew Heaney is headed to Texas.

The team that signs Rodón will lose a draft pick, as he rejected a qualifying offer. Same applies to Chris Bassitt and Nathan Eovaldi. Kodai Senga, with no draft pick attached, could be signing soon, per reports, while lefty Sean Manaea and righty Noah Syndergaard are still out there.

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