PHILADELPHIA — Josiah Gray scooted off the field after he fanned Bryson Stott on a high hard one to escape a scoring threat, giving the Washington Nationals a rare jolt on the mound.
Gray could be excused for the animated exit in perhaps his best inning of the season.
“I don’t show much emotion, but I do in big spots like that,” he said.
Stone Garrett hit a two-run homer and Gray forced two pop-ups and struck out a batter that left the potential go-ahead run stranded in the pivotal sixth inning to lead the Nationals to a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night.
Staked to a 2-1 lead, Gray (6-6) shut down the meat of Philadelphia’s order after he let the first two runners reach in the sixth. The right-hander retired Bryce Harper on a pop-up to third, got J.T. Realmuto to pop to second and struck out Stott swinging on a 95 mph fastball.
“That’s something we talked about that he’s learned from last year to this year, just staying in the moment,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “Don’t get all riled up if something doesn’t happen right. Just focus on the next pitch, and he’s doing that so well this year.”
In a bit of an ill-timed promotion, the Phillies then set off a small batch of fireworks to promote the bigger postgame spectacular.
The Phillies simply fizzled at home following a three-game road sweep against the Cubs. They still finished June 18-8 and moved into NL wild-card contention after a 25-32 start.
The Phillies hit the halfway point of the season at 43-38.
“I feel good about the month of June,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “We’ve got to keep it going. I think, if you look at the talent on this roster, it’s better than an 86-win club.”
But they were stymied by Gray, who struck out eight and walked one over six innings to win his second straight start. Alec Bohm had an RBI single in the second — and was promptly picked off.
“He was on. He was around the zone with everything tonight,” Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber said.
Harper, who spent seven seasons with the Nationals, singled twice, the second time against reliever Kyle Finnegan in the eighth. But again the Phillies couldn’t generate the big hit, and Realmuto was retired on a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
Hunter Harvey worked a scoreless ninth for his seventh save.
Phillies shortstop Trea Turner’s throwing error in the second allowed Keibert Ruiz to reach, and Garrett followed with a two-run shot off Phillies starter Cristopher Sánchez (0-2).
Sánchez continued a string of solid outings from Phillies starters. He struck out six, walked one and allowed one earned run in his six innings.