Notes on Bourque, Parra, Scherzer, Grace and Soto

Nationals right-hander James Bourque had a day to think about his major league debut Sunday in the 9-6 win over the Marlins. He did allow a three-run double but also induced a 4-6-3 double play. He wished it had gone a bit better but was happy the Nats won the game.

“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be. I’m sure I looked it during the outing. Once I got on the mound and saw it was 60 feet, six inches away and the catcher and a plate, that was same thing. Just was getting a little rushed probably and then falling behind in counts. Hitters up here are pretty good. They are going to make you pay for those.

“I’m glad the first one is out of the way and obviously it was a nice little cushion there. Team still won so, obviously disappointed with it personally and know that I can do a lot better than that. I’ve had a lot of people reach out and say first one’s a mixed bag, sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s pretty bad. Kind of just got to take it for what it is.”

James-Bourque-Debut-Delivers-White-Sidebar.jpgBourque said his key this season to date has been the refined use of his fastball and picking his spots for the curveball. The former Michigan product arrived after posting a 1.33 ERA and 33 strikeouts in only 20 1/3 innings at Double-A Harrisburg.

“In the minors I felt like I was commanding the fastball really well. I think that’s part of what was disappointing is that the things I’m doing well and I showed the front office and the staff here that I could do I didn’t do (Sunday) so that was a little bit frustrating.

“But (in the minors) I was throwing strikes, getting ahead of guys, using the fastball a little bit more than I did in 2018, so I wasn’t leaning as much on the curveball. That obviously didn’t happen (Sunday). You just got to trust the stuff and I feel like if I can get strike one and get ahead of guys than I’m going to be all good.”

* One of the impressive in-season finds by general manager Mike Rizzo has been outfielder/infielder Gerardo Parra. The veteran has started in the outfield and at first base for the Nats, made big plays as a pinch-hitter and Sunday demonstrated his defensive ability in center field. Nationals manager Davey Martinez says Parra brings a lot to the team.

“He knows his role,” Martinez said. “We’re going to get him in there against right-handed pitching, but I love him because he’s a left-handed bat off the bench, and yet he can come in and play all three outfield positions, play first base for us, even pinch-run for us, and since we got him he’s been great.”

Martinez has also noticed how Parra has developed relationships with young players like Juan Soto and Victor Robles as they begin their journey through the major leagues.

“One thing I’ll mention is that he’s a leader in that clubhouse, which I really like,” the skipper said. “He helps all the Latin players, which is really, really good.”

Starting pitcher Max Scherzer appreciates the play of Parra behind him and as mentioned before, remembers when he first saw Parra play with the Diamondbacks.

“Yeah, he plays good defense and he’s got a cannon for an arm,” Scherzer said. “You saw (Monday) he was all over the diamond making plays for us. He made some good catches out there at right center field. He was able to throw out (Jorge) Alfaro and made a nice running catch.

“I played with him all the back way when he was a pup when we were in Arizona together. Nothing has really changed, he’s the same guy. He’s a great guy for our clubhouse and what he can do for the ballclub.”

Scherzer helped his own cause with an RBI single. He said facing José Ureña is never an easy at-bat.

“Yeah, I was just able to get (a good swing) - Ureña’s got a nasty sinker and it gives me fits,” Scherzer said. “I was able to just get it up in the zone enough and just able to put a good swing on it. I’ve been working in the cage with (Kevin Long) and all those guys, so it’s good when you work hard in between your days and get up to the plate, get a chance and a get an RBI. Credit to all those guys for how hard they work with me to be able to, just when I’m in that situation to be able to get a good swing off.”

Scherzer’s 25 RBIs are second to Adam Wainwright (31) for pitchers since the start of the 2016 season. He has two RBIs this season.

* There is concern that Trea Turner’s finger is not 100 percent and that may have been part of his fielding errors and some tough throws recently. Martinez was asked if he thought Turner was back to normal.

“That’s a good question. It’s going to take some time, I think, to heal, he says he feels great and I believe him, he’s made some really good plays,” Martinez said. “But I think right now you got to remember, too, having missed seven weeks and getting back into the swing of things, I think he’s played really, really well. He’s a guy that we need and having him in the lineup helps us out tremendously.

“The throw he made there he just got underneath a little bit. It wasn’t a terrible throw ... what would concern me is if he started throwing balls up the line, cutting the ball, throwing it ... you know, letting the balls fade and bouncing balls, but he’s been accurate, and that’s nice.”

* Martinez used left-hander Matt Grace in a specialty role again on Monday and it worked out perfectly. Grace struck out Curtis Granderson to begin the ninth for his only batter.

“He’s been pitching a lot better, I thought maybe for me, it’s getting him some confidence back. We need Matt Grace, especially to get lefties out, and he came in today and struck out Granderson, which was perfect.”

* Soto is in his hitting zone. He doubled in the fourth inning Monday to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games. The left fielder is batting .463 (19-for-41) with six doubles, one triple, two homers and 11 RBIs during the streak. He also has earned five walks and scored eight runs during this span. He has now reached base safely in 29 of his last 31 games.

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