The Nats finish at 71 wins, a 16-game improvement from last season
Washington concluded the 2023 season on a high note with a series win over the Atlanta Braves on the road. Scoring 20 runs in those two wins, the bats traveled well to Atlanta with multiple Nats hitters after leaving Baltimore ice-cold earlier in the week. It was a great ending to a season of improvement for many Nationals' players.
After an off day Monday, a two-game series kicked off against the Orioles in Baltimore. A strong start by Josiah Gray was spoiled due to the Nats only having three hits in the game. Gray threw six innings while giving up one earned run with seven strikeouts. Josiah walked just two and gave up a solo home run. Washington lost to Baltimore 1-0. Game two was similar to the first, with the Nats compiling just six hits. Jake Alu drove in the Nats' lone run of the contest in another loss to the Orioles, 5-1. Patrick Corbin started game two and was ineffective, allowing four earned runs and four walks through 4.2 innings.
A different Nationals team showed up in Atlanta. Washington slugged five home runs on their way to scoring ten runs Friday night. Carter Keiboom hit a three-run home run to get the scoring going in the fourth inning. Jake Alu followed up with a bomb of his own. Dominic Smith hit a go-ahead home run in the sixth inning, and Lane Thomas provided insurance in the seventh inning with a homer. Trevor Williams lasted just 3.1 innings, but the bullpen was there to cover their starting pitcher. The Nationals beat the Braves in game one, 10-6. Joan Adon got the ball in game two and was solid until the fifth inning when he was pulled. Jodan Weems replaced him and recorded one out before Davey Martinez made another visit to the mound. The Braves scored four runs in the fifth inning and was enough to beat the Nats, 5-3. Joey Meneses and Luis Garcia recorded RBIs for the Nats. The Scrappy Nats came to play in the final game, scoring five runs in the last two innings in a 10-9 victory. Lane Thomas had four hits and scored two runs, and Jacob Young drove in three runs, including two in the ninth inning to take the lead. Drew Millas drove in a run with a walk in the ninth to tie the game.
CJ Abrams set the Washington Nationals single-season record for steals in a season(47), passing Trea Turners' previous record(46). Abrams consistently improved throughout the season, becoming more aggressive on the bases as his confidence grew.
Hitter of the Week
With ten hits in the final five games, Ruiz ended the season on a tear. Keibert had been struggling a bit towards the end of the season; a strong finish was a necessity for the 25-year-old catcher. After an underwhelming first half of the season, Ruiz rebounded and ended the season as one of the better-hitting catchers in the Majors. His final line was .260/.308/.717, 18 home runs and 67 RBI.
Ruiz is the catcher of the future for the Nationals. There's no question his defense will need to improve next season. Ruiz could have felt the pressure of a new contract in the first half of the season. Keibert seemed more relaxed at the plate in the second half, leading to a more productive approach. The next step for Ruiz is to become a better recieving catcher to help his pitchers out. The bat skills are some of the best among catchers in the Majors.
Pitcher of the Week
Although he was pinned with the loss due to poor hitting, Josiah Gray still gets Pitcher of the Week honors. Gray threw six innings while striking out seven, finishing September with a 2.95 ERA in four starts. A strong finish to the season was important for Gray after an 8.84 ERA in August across 19.1 innings. Josiah compiled 21.1 innings in September to finish with 159 innings this season, a 8-13 record, and a 3.91 ERA. It was Gray's best season as a Major leaguer and instilled that Josiah belongs in the Nats' starting rotation.
Control is the biggest issue for Gray and will need to be improved in the offseason. Gray walked 80 batters, 14 more than last season, and pitched to a 1.46 WHIP. Josiah allowed just 22 home runs, 16 fewer than last season. It's well-known Gray is capable of being an efficient starting pitcher; limiting walks and waste pitches will be the next step in his improvement.