WASHINGTON NATIONALS NOTES:
The Nationals and Diamondbacks will meet six times in 2023 (3 in D.C., 3 in ARI)…Henry Blanco played in Arizona from 2011-12 prior to serving as their assistant coach and bullpen catcher in 2014… Patrick Corbin played the 2012-18 seasons with the Diamondbacks prior to signing with the Nationals… Blanco caught Corbin’s Major League debut on April 30, 2012 at Miami…Mike Rizzo spent seven seasons (2000-06) in Arizona’s front office… Stone Garrett made his Major League debut with the Diamondbacks in August of 2022…Ildemaro Vargas played for Arizona from 2017-2020…Trevor Williams attended Arizona State University from 2011-2013.
DUEL IN THE DESERT
The Washington Nationals begin a six-game road trip tonight in Phoenix with the first of three games with the Arizona Diamondbacks…The Nationals are coming off a series win at home against the Chicago Cubs, winning the final game of series in walk-off fashion, thanks a home run from Alex Call…Washington has won three of their last four series, including their last two series on the road (Minnesota and New York (NL)).
• After Chicago tied the game in the eighth, Alex Call came through in the bottom of the ninth with his first career walk-off home run…Call sent the first pitch of the inning from Brad Boxberger over the left field wall…It was the Nationals first walk off win of the season and their first since September 28, 2022… The Nationals had two walk off wins in 2022, but had to wait until September 1 before winning their first game in walk off fashion.
• Despite taking a no decision, Patrick Corbin allowed a season-low three hits in a season-high 7.0 innings…He matched a season-high with six strikeouts and did not issue a walk for the third time this season…His 7.0 innings pitched were the most by a Nationals starter this season.
The Nationals head on the road to Arizona having won three of their last four games…They are 9-7 dating to April 16 vs. Cleveland and 12-12 since April 7 at Colorado.
• Following this weekend’s series with the Diamondbacks, the Nationals will head to San Francisco for a three-game series, Monday-Wednesday, against the Giants.
Jim Hickey’s starters rank tied for fourth in the National League in starts of at least 5.0 innings this season with 24…In 2022, the Nationals ranked 28th in Major League Baseball with 94 starts of at least 5.0 innings.
• Starters Josiah Gray (6.0 IP, 3 H, ER, 3 BB, 6 SO), MacKenzie Gore (4.0 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO), Trevor Williams (5.1 IP, 4 H, BB, 4 SO) and Jake Irvin (4.1 IP, 2 H, ER, 4 BB, 3 SO), Patrick Corbin (7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 SO) have combined to pitch to a 2.70 ERA over the last five games.
• The bullpen has pitched to a 1.96 ERA (4 ER/18.1 IP) over the same stretch.
CJ IN DC
Over his last nine games, CJ Abrams is 10-for-28 (.357) with a double, homer, seven RBI, one hit by pitch and four runs scored…He’s hit safely in seven of the nine games.
• Since April 15, he is hitting .281 (16-for-57) with a .421 slugging percentage (2 2B, 2 HR).
SPEAKING OF DOM
Dominic Smith is 9-for-22 (.409) with one double, one homer, one RBI and four runs scored over his last six games…He’s struck out just twice in 22 plate appearances over this stretch.
• He is one of two National League first baseman to accumulate at three defensive runs saved along with Pittsburgh’s Carlos Santana (3), per FanGraphs.com.
NO Ks HERE
Thanks to Keibert Ruiz (2nd, 7.2%), Luis García (4th, 7.8%) and Victor Robles (19th, 12.6%), the Nationals have three players in the top 20 in MLB in strikeout rate…The Nationals are one of two teams with more than two players (Boston).
• As a team, the Nationals have the lowest strikeout rate in Major League Baseball (18.0%) and the fewest strikeouts (209) ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks (230).
STARTING PITCHER – #40 JOSIAH GRAY
Right-hander was acquired by the Nationals from the Los Angeles Dodgers at the 2021 Trade Deadline…Was Los Angeles’ No. 2 prospect entering 2021 and its Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2019…Was originally selected by Cincinnati in the second round (No. 72 overall) of the 2019 First-Year Player Draft out of Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York…Was acquired by the Dodgers on his 21st birthday, Dec. 21, 2018…Is the Player Ambassador to the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.
Earned his second win of the season after he pitched 6.0 innings, struck out six and allowed one run against Pittsburgh at Nationals Park on April 30…Allowed just three hits and three walks.
• Gray’s teammates have now scored 12 runs while Gray’s been in the game in his last two starts (seven vs. Pittsburgh, April 30 and five vs. New York (NL) on April 25)…Gray did not received a single run of support while he was in the game in his first four starts.
Gray ranks third in the National League (5th in MLB) with a 1.57 ERA (5 ER/28.2 IP) in five starts since April 6…He has allowed just one home run in that span and has not allowed a home run in his last three starts.
Faces the Diamondbacks for the second time in his career…Earned the win in his only start against Arizona…Gray worked 5.1 innings, struck out eight and allowed one run on three hits and two walks on April 19, 2022 at Nationals Park.
THE STORY OF HIS CUTTER
As told to Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post in a recent story: “At the start of spring training, Gray debuted a cutter he learned from Erasmo Ramírez, who drew his grip on a baseball Gray practiced with until he lost it at the gym during the offseason. Gray joked that some Florida teenager could be throwing Ramírez’s cutter in high school games. Yet by the time he misplaced the ball, Gray knew where t
o put his fingers. The pitch felt like a natural complement to his slider, moving more side-to-side while his gyroscopic slider drops almost straight down.
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS NOTES:
HERE’S THE STORY
♦ The D-backs begin a 10-game homestand vs. Nationals (May 5-7), Marlins (May 8-10) and Giants (May 11-14).
♦ The D-backs are currently second in the NL West, 1.5 games behind the Dodgers…Arizona has spent 23 total days this season in or tied for first place (since April 8).
♦ Arizona is 11-10 vs. Washington (5-4 @ home) since 2019.
♦ Merrill Kelly has 3 quality starts in his last 4 outings since April 11…last year, in 3 starts vs. NL East, went 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA (4 ER in 18.0 IP) and .239 opponent average with 5 walks and 17 strikeouts, including an 11-2 win @ Nationals on April 20, 2022 (W; 1 ER in 6.0 IP).
♦ Christian Walker, in his last 5 games, is hitting .409 (9-for-22) with 4 home runs, 7 runs and 10 RBI…collected his first multi-homer game of the season (6th career) and tied a career high with 5 RBI on May 3 @ Rangers.
♦ Emmanuel Rivera has hit safely in 6 of his 7 games (.409; 9-for-22, 2 2B, 4 RBI).
♦ Geraldo Perdomo is batting .409 (27-for-66)/1.109 OPS with 7 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs, 15 runs, 17 RBI and 7 walks in 24 games…his average ranks second in the Majors, behind Luis Arraez/MIA (.424 in 29 games)… Perdomo has 7 multi-hits eff orts in his last 12 games.
♦ Dominic Fletcher has hit safely in his first 3 Major League games (.400; 4-for-10, 1 2B, 2 RBI)… tied for fifth longest streak in D-backs history to start a career (last: Corbin Carroll in 2022)…record is David Peralta (7 games in 2014).
♦ Ketel Marte is hitting .333 (4-for-12) with 3 homers, 4 runs, 6 RBI and 4 walks in his last 4 games.
♦ Arizona went 3-2 on its 5-game road trip @ Rockies (2-1) and Rangers (1-1)…the D-backs have won or tied all but 1 road series (2-1-3).
♦ The D-backs scored 40 runs over their 5 games (averaging 8.0 runs per game).
♦ The D-backs matched a season high with 12 runs in their final game @ Rangers on May 3 and marked the most runs on the road since Sept. 11, 2022 @ Rockies.
♦ Arizona also tallied a season-high 4 home runs on May 3 and most in a game since July 2, 2022 @ Rockies (4).
♦ In the final game vs. Rangers, the D-backs had 3 innings of 3+ runs for the first time since Aug. 30, 2022 vs. Phillies.
♦ Christian Walker became just the second Arizona batter since 2020 with at least 2 homers, 5 RBI and 3 runs in a game (also: Eduardo Escobar on May 15, 2021 vs. Nationals).
SNAKES OFFENSE AMONG THE REST
♦ The D-backs rank in the Majors in strikeouts (2nd fewest, 230), doubles (4th, 66), triples (4th, 7), average (5th, .265), hits (9th, 278) and stolen bases (9th, 26).
♦ Since April 7, Arizona’s .319 average (69-for-216) with runners in scoring position is second in the Majors, behind the Rangers (.330).
♦ Geraldo Perdomo’s .550 average (11-for-20) with runners in scoring position is second in the Majors, ahead of Marcus Semien/TEX (.538) [min. 25 PA].
D-BACKS MINOR LEAGUE APRIL HONORS
♦ Triple-A Reno INF Phillip Evans was named Pacific Coast League April Player of the Month while Double-A Amarillo INF Ryan Bliss was named Texas League Player of the Month.
♦ INF Ryan Bliss and RHP Dylan Ray were selected as overall winners for D-backs’ organization Player and Pitcher of the Month for April…affiliate winners:
Triple-A Reno: INF Phillip Evans (.455; 35-for-77, 6 2B, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 21 BB) and RHP Brandon Pfaadt (2-1, 3.91 ERA; 11 ER in 25.1 IP, 30 K)
Double-A Amarillo: INF Ryan Bliss (.410; 34-for-83, 8 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 8 SB) and LHP Kyle Backhus (7 G, 0-0, 1.00 ERA; 1 ER in 9.0 IP, 2 BB, 12 K)
RHP MERRILL KELLY ♦ #29
AT A GLANCE: In his fifth season with the D-backs.
• Played 5 seasons in the Rays’ system (2010-14) then 4 seasons (2015-18) with the SK Wyverns in the KBO League.
• Rays’ eighth-round pick in the 2010 draft.
• Grew up in Scottsdale, Ariz., and attended Desert Mountain High School, Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz. (2008-09) and Arizona State University (2010), helping the Sun Devils reach the College World Series in 2010.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Is making his third career start vs. Nationals (first @ Chase Field).
• Looking for his first home win of the season.
• Has tossed 3 quality starts in his last 4 bids.
• His 524 strikeouts are eighth all-time among D-backs starters: Randy Johnson (2,077), Brandon Webb (1,065), Robbie Ray (998), Patrick Corbin (897), Curt Schilling (875), Zack Greinke (683), Dan Haren (570).
LAST START: Earned the win on April 28 @ Rockies after allowing just 1 run through 6.0 frames.
VS. NATIONALS: Is 2-0 with a 5.25 ERA (7 ER in 12.0 IP) in 2 starts (both @ Nationals Park).
• Won his last start on April 20, 2022 @ Nationals (1 ER in 6.0 IP).
CHANGING IT UP: Opponents are hitting .156 (5-for-32) with 9 strikeouts off his changeup…is throwing his changeup 26.3% of the time vs. 25.0% with his fastball.
• In 2022, threw his fastball 29.2% of the time and changeup 21.9%.