DJ Herz has ARRIVED!

The Washington Nationals' newest young pitching phenom was absolutely lights-out on Saturday afternoon against the Marlins. Let’s break down the outstanding breakout performance of the man of the hour, 23-year-old lefty DJ Herz.
DJ Herz following the best start of his young career.
DJ Herz following the best start of his young career. / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages
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There is no doubt that DJ Herz must have been feeling a little bit of pressure coming into Saturday's start against the struggling Miami Marlins. Although just the third start of his young career, with the impending returns of Cade Cavalli and Josiah Gray to the rotation, speculation has already begun about how the Washington Nationals' rotation is going to be rearranged once they're back in the fold.

Needless to say, the case for DJ Herz to remain apart of the big-league rotation has officially been made. On Saturday, the 23-year-old lefty was absolutely dominant. He cruised through 6 near-perfect innings, firing 57 of his 84 pitches for strikes, allowing just one hit, walking none, and striking out a whopping 13 batters. He did all of this while making a ton of history in the process.

Herz, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs along with infielder Kevin Made last summer for just a couple months of Jeimer Candelario, was once committed to the University of North Carolina to play college football. It's easy to see now that he definitely made the right decision in choosing baseball, and Saturday afternoon was just further proof of that.

Seemingly channeling the energy that the other young starters of the Nats like MacKenzie Gore, Jake Irvin, and Mitchell Parker have had this season, Herz was equally dominant in his own right. He made franchise history by becoming the second Nats' starter in franchise history to record 13 or more strikeouts. The other Nat to accomplish the feat? Stephen Strasburg in his MLB Debut against the Pirates.

This start was different than what we had seen from Herz in his first two MLB starts. Herz displayed excellent command, often utilizing his fastball (52% of his pitches), to get ahead of hitters early on in counts , and obviously his stuff was top-notch today, with the Marlins appearing helpless at times. I encourage anyone reading this to take 95 seconds out of their day to watch the video below of all 13 of his strikeouts on Saturday.

In case you didn't see the game, to give even further context of just how good Herz was on Saturday, he didn't allow a baserunner until the 5th inning, and even then it was just a single to left by Jake Burger. He was able to be superbly economical and work counts to his favor. For about 4 innings it didn't look like the Marlins were going to be able to touch him at all. It was undoubtedly the best start of Herz' young career, and possibly even one of the best of his life, at least according to him.

"I think that was probably my best game I have ever pitched."

DJ Herz, following his 13 K performance.

Personally, I wanted to see him at least start the 7th inning and at least give himself a chance to break Stephen Strasburg's rookie single-game strikeout record of 14, but he has only gone over 90 pitches once in his professional career to this point. While many people were upset with Davey Martinez in the moment for not letting Herz continue, he was at 84 pitches and it also was just a 2-0 game, meaning the chance that fatigue would set in and create a sticky situation was one that was certainly possible. Luckily, the bullpen was able to close the door behind him to secure the first career victory for Herz.

For rookies this season, Herz now has the second-most strikeouts in a single game, trailing only Yankees' righty Luis Gil, who had 14 in a game earlier this season. This puts him ahead of other notable rookie pitchers such as Paul Skenes and Jared Jones of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have been downright phenomenal this season in their own right as well.

There are all kinds of stats floating around on X that showcase just how special of a performance this was for Herz, as it really was quite historic. And while it remains to be seen what's going to happen to the Nats' rotation once Gray and Cavalli return from the IL, for now, we just need to enjoy performances like these from Herz and the other young Nats' starters. The Nats have now won 7 of 8 and find themselves just a half game out of the final Wild Card spot going into Sunday's game.


What do you think of DJ Herz' performance on Saturday night? Do you think he will remain with the big-league club once Gray and Cavalli return from injury? As always, please let me know your thoughts on X @DCBerk.

All stats in this article were provided by MLB.com.