Nationals’ Josiah Gray apologizes for outburst at Jacob Young

Typically, Josiah Gray reserves his emotions on the field for special moments — such as a strikeout that thwarts him or a timely pitch that creates weak contact and leads to a few appreciative slaps to his glove. On the rare occasions that he does express negative feelings, it is often with his face in the glove while looking down.

But then there was a crucial loss to the Miami Marlins in the first inning on Sunday when the Washington Nationals right-hander fell out of character. He turned to midfield, yelled and directed his frustration at Jacob Young, a freshman who missed a routine flyball after losing it in the sun.

Perhaps frustration over an avoidable but ultimately disastrous inning boiled over. Or the three straight steps that followed Young’s mistake made Gray nervous. Or the disappointment of a bad second half finally overwhelmed him. Either way, it’s another moment that allows Gray to show his growth.

“In general it’s just difficult because I want to keep as calm as possible here,” he said after the 4-6 defeat. “I guess it just got to a point where I just had to let it out. I have already apologized to Jacob and [first baseman Dominic Smith] because my goal is to be a leader in this clubhouse, and that’s not what leaders do. … I just have to learn from it and do better next time.”

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The track in question was a tough break for Gray, but one that can happen on a sunny September afternoon. Gray was already a run behind after the Marlins’ Luis Arraez hit a solo home run early in the game. Three batters later, Young was under Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s flyball, but lost it in the sun and fell when the ball bounced behind him and then into the visitors’ bullpen, where he hit a ground rule double.

Young’s mistake can’t justify what happened next: Gray threw 12 of his next 14 shots for balls. He ran three batters in a row and pushed home two marlins to make it 3-0. But when the inning finally ended, Gray remained frustrated and yelled and appeared to confront Young about his misplay. As Gray reached the shelter, Smith pulled him aside.

“I don’t want to see that out there,” manager Dave Martinez said of Gray’s outburst. “If he wants to come in [the clubhouse] and do that… and we talked about it afterwards. One of our veterans took care of this as well and spoke to him about it. All is well, but he understands that this should be done. frustration will set in. You just have to remember what you’re doing and just go out there and keep competing.”

Gray only allowed three baserunners in his last three innings to avoid having his start go horribly wrong, which was fitting because much of the 25-year-old’s development this year has focused on his ability to process his emotions and to get over. Last season, Gray faced the Los Angeles Dodgers – the team that traded him to Washington – and he admitted he was too fit to face off. There were fewer moments like this this season, and it helped earn him his first All-Star award.

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But Gray’s emotions boiled Sunday at one of the low points of his major league career. Since the All-Star break, he has an ERA of 5.88. (It was 3.41 before the break.) In his last six starts, he has only once pitched more than five innings. Martinez would not commit to Gray starting Sunday until he saw his bullpen session on Friday to ensure his mechanics are back on track.

Gray often speaks to reporters about taking a leadership role in this young team and helping them on their way to competition. He is often one of the first pitchers on the field before games and has made changes to his arsenal as he has learned from his mistakes. Sunday won’t be the last setback he encounters on his major league journey. How he grows from that moment — as he has after so many others — could be critical to his development into the leader he and the Nationals can be.

“I think that flyball just knocked me out [loop]’ Gray said. “I tried to refocus but it obviously didn’t take long enough to refocus and regain my composure and I ended up accompanying three men. … In the last three innings I was lucky enough to get a couple of zeros. But things [were] I just get faster and [I was] I’m just not able to show that much frustration, so I’ve already apologized to the guys for that.

“I feel terrible about it. I just have to learn from it.” Nationals’ Josiah Gray apologizes for outburst at Jacob Young

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