Imagine being traded for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner and then going full flop with your one and only chance to make a good first impression.

Such is the CliffsNotes version of Josiah Gray’s introduction to the Nationals. Though he arrived in Washington as the No. 42 prospect in baseball, he ended 2021 with a 5.38 ERA over 12 starts and struggled again with a 5.02 ERA in 28 starts in 2022.

Nobody could chalk it up to bad luck. Gray served up more than two home runs per nine innings in his first 40 starts as a Nat, and he even led the National League in home runs and walks in ’22. It was just plain bad pitching.

To be sure, this season hasn’t gone by without Gray taking any additional lumps. He only has a 4.07 ERA for the year and he’s thus far coughed up a 5.48 ERA in the second half.

His first half, though, was good enough to be worthy of his first All-Star selection. And even now, he isn’t deviating from the much-improved rate of 1.3 home runs per nine innings he has for the season. He’s simply a better pitcher, and one who hasn’t even turned 26 yet.

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