PHILADELPHIA - After making 28 appearances in the first two months of the season, left-hander Matt Grace has been called upon only nine times since June 1. He struggled in May, posting a 9.82 ERA in 12 appearances. After allowing runs June 20 and 22, he wasn’t called on for almost another two weeks.
Grace has started 0-1 with a 5.94 ERA in those 37 games. He has not given up a run in his two July appearances, so he feels like that is something to slowly build on.
“It goes in waves. It is what it is,” Grace said. “We’ve been winning games so that’s really the whole point of the thing.
“I think I’ve been better as of late. Just early in the season ran into a couple of situations there, couple of tough outings. Feel like I’ve corrected that a little bit. Just got back to getting after guys and attacking.”
The veteran has pitched in 164 games for the Nationals since 2014 and even started a game in San Diego in 2017. So, shouldn’t he feel comfortable about heading into manager Davey Martinez’s office and ask what he needs to do to get into games?
“Obviously I want to be pitching,” Grace said. “I want to be in those games. I’m always ready to go. I’m going to be ready to go. But when we’re going like we’re going now, there’s no room for that type of individual stuff. We’re just trying to ride this together and see where it takes us for sure.”
Pitching coach Paul Menhart is always there for Grace, but they are not making any major changes to his mechanics or set up following those struggles in May.
“He knows me really well,” Grace said. “They’re pretty simple (ideas). Just getting back to basics. Just comes down to execution pretty much, nothing more crazy than that. Maybe with mixing it up, throwing my off speed a little bit more. It’s pretty simple conversations getting to that place where I need to be.”
With left-hander Jonny Venters placed on the injured list, it’s a good bet that Grace will be called upon again on a more regular basis to begin the second half of the season. Now he just has to prove he can keep the game-changing hits off the board and move his club to the next inning.
Update: The Nats scored two runs in the second off of Phillies starter Nick Pivetta. Juan Soto walked and Ryan Zimmerman singled. Kurt Suzuki singled to load the bases. Victor Robles singled to right field to score two.
In the third, the Nats added another run. Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon singled to put runners on the corners. Zimmerman’s long drive to center field was snagged by Scott Kingery with a diving catch. The sacrifice fly scored Eaton.
Stephen Strasburg has allowed two hits but also has struck out two in three scoreless innings.
After three innings, the Nats lead the Phillies 3-0.
Update II: The Phillies get five innings out of Pivetta. he allowed three runs on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts. J.D. Hammer into pitch top of the sixth for the Phillies.
Meanwhile, Strasburg has allowed six hits with no runs and five strikeouts through five frames.
After five innings, the Nats lead the Phillies 3-0.
Update III: Strasburg fired six shutout innings, allowing seven hits with one walk and six strikeouts. He was taxed for 111 pitches, 70 for strikes. Wander Suero struck out two in a scoreless seventh.
Mid-eighth, the Nats lead the Phillies 3-0.
Update IV: The Nats add a sacrifice fly RBI from Soto in the ninth. Sean Doolittle allowed a single, but struck out two to end the game.
Final score: Nats 4, Phillies 0.