The highly touted matchup did not disappoint: Josiah Gray versus Edward Cabrera in a battle of emerging 23-year-old right-handers that could be a headlining duel in the National League East for years to come.
“It’s fun to see this next core of guys come up and watch them do what they’re capable of doing,” manager Dave Martinez said following the Nationals’ 10-inning 4-3 loss to the Marlins on Wednesday night at loanDepot park.
For Gray, it was his fifth start with the Nats since being acquired from the Dodgers at the Trade Deadline. For Cabrera, it was his Major League debut. Wednesday night marked only the second time since 2004 that a preseason top 100 prospect made his Majors debut against another top 100 prospect. Cabrera entered the game ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 30 overall prospect, with Gray at No. 54.
“I think there’s an added edge any time you’re going up against a guy that’s as good as him,” Gray said after the game, in which both pitchers earned a no-decision.
Gray tossed six innings, allowing two runs on five hits and three walks while recording seven strikeouts over 91 pitches (62 strikes). He allowed a home run to Brian Anderson in the sixth, continuing his trend of giving up a solo dinger in each of his starts with the Nats thus far.
Gray felt like he was battling with his command from the first inning, and noted he wasn’t seeing the results he wanted on his fastball. Still, he has thrown at least five innings and allowed five hits or fewer in his first five starts with Washington. Gray holds a 2.89 ERA as a member of the Nationals.
“He did a nice job with us,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Gray. “He kept us down. Looks like he's a guy who could throw the ball at the top of the zone with some spin; his breaking ball doesn't really come out with any kind of hump on it. I couldn't tell the difference in the breaking ball -- it looked like a split almost to me, and he doesn't really throw a split. I thought he was pretty good.”
The Nationals were held scoreless by Cabrera for the first five innings of his big league premiere. They didn’t do damage until the seventh inning when Josh Bell pummeled a two-run homer, followed by a Yadiel Hernandez home run in the next at-bat. Cabrera exited having thrown 6 1/3 frames and allowing those three runs on four hits and three walks with two strikeouts across 78 pitches (50 strikes).
“Obviously I know a little about Edward Cabrera just from playing MLB The Show, and he has a really good card in The Show,” said Gray. “I was really excited for the matchup, and I thought he went out and threw the ball as well as he could, and it was really impressive to watch him.”
After years of the Nationals' pitching being dominated by All-Star veterans, Wednesday’s matchup marked a new wave of battles to look forward to among the division rivals.
“I see these two kids going at it for many, many years,” Martinez said. “I wish them both health throughout their career because it will be a lot of fun when you see Josiah against Cabrera, especially the next time around.”