Josiah Gray Racks Up Career-High 11 Strikeouts in Nationals' Win Over Phillies

Gray racks up career-high 11 strikeouts in Nats’ win over Phillies originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Phillies are quickly learning that Josiah Gray is going to be a problem.

After Gray tossed six scoreless innings against Philadelphia two weeks ago, he took the mound against them once again Wednesday and set a new career high in strikeouts. The right-hander struck out 11 Phillies, dominating just about everyone not named Kyle Schwarber to lead the Nationals (30-54) to a 3-2 victory on the road.

“When he can throw his fastball around the plate and be consistent with throwing his fastball, that makes his slider a lot better,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said in his postgame press conference, as aired on MASN. “He did that tonight. He had 11 strikeouts so when he pounds that strike zone like he did and can make pitches when he needs to, he gives us good outings all the time.”

Schwarber, who’s on one of his home run tears again, took him deep twice for his second multi-homer game against his former team in as many days. Yet Gray was able to limit both to solo shots, minimizing the damage. The rest of the Phillies’ Bryce Harper-less lineup mustered just one hit and a walk off him the rest of the night to spoil an effective start by Aaron Nola.

Gray’s outing represented a bounce-back performance for the 24-year-old after he allowed the Miami Marlins to tag him for six runs in D.C. on Friday. But overall he has been on a tear of his own. Over his last seven starts, Gray carries a 2.66 ERA with 48 strikeouts to 15 walks.

His fastball and slider in particular have worked well in tandem. The four-seamer sets up the breaking ball, which has led to lots of weak contact and a high whiff rate. Entering Wednesday's game, Gray's average exit velocity on his slider was 82.3 mph, the lowest of any pitcher in baseball for that pitch.

The string of strong starts is an encouraging sign for the Nationals, who made Gray a key part of their future when they acquired him along with Keibert Ruiz and two other prospects in their trade deadline deal last summer that shipped Max Scherzer and Trea Turner off to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Washington has had a trying year in the standings, but Gray is one of several young players that have already begun staking their place in the Nationals’ future plans.

For evidence of that, look no further than Wednesday’s win. Gray earned the victory behind a career outing. Ruiz called the game from behind the plate, threw out a baserunner, went 1-for-4 and scored a run. Shortstop Luis García hit the go-ahead double off Nola to give the Nationals the lead for good. Not to mention Juan Soto reached base three times.

“These guys are a big part of our future,” Martinez said. He pointed to instances where Ruiz made a productive out and García put the ball in play in an RBI situation, adding that “those are the kind of little things that we need to start seeing from these guys, playing the game the right way and when you do that consistently good things will happen.”

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