NEW YORK (AP) — When the Washington Nationals traded away two superstars for the future promise of Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz, this was exactly the sort of night they had in mind.
Gray pitched six overpowering innings and Ruiz, his young batterymate, homered to help Washington beat the listless New York Mets 5-0 on Tuesday.
Ruiz and Gray were both top-rated prospects when they were acquired from the Dodgers in the July 2021 blockbuster deal that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to Los Angeles.
“For us to be forever linked together is cool,” Gray said. “For us to both have success today is a lot of fun.”
Luis García had a two-run double and Joey Meneses added a pair of RBI singles among three hits. Ruiz also finished with three hits as the rebuilding Nationals won the first meeting this season between the NL East foes.
Finally given some offensive support in his fifth start this year, Gray (1-4) struck out nine and walked one while allowing four hits in a successful homecoming. The right-hander grew up in New Rochelle, just north of New York City, and said he had about 20 friends and family in attendance.
“Every part of this today was a lot of fun,” said Gray, who entered 0-2 with a 12.00 ERA in three starts against the Mets. “It’s that much more special to get my first win here in New York. … Everyone came out in droves and came to support.”
Gray has a 1.59 ERA over his past four outings. His only real trouble came when the Mets loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, but he struck out Starling Marte with a full-count slider and then needed only seven pitches to work a 1-2-3 sixth.
“Big pitch right there,” Ruiz said. “I’m glad he got through the sixth inning and we got a win.”
Ruiz’s solo homer to right-center off José Butto (0-1) in the second marked the first run Washington scored with Gray on the mound this season.
“I knew we were going to break through soon,” Gray said.
Butto was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse to start in Scherzer’s spot. The three-time Cy Young Award winner was suspended for 10 games by Major League Baseball last week following his ejection for having a foreign substance on his hand while pitching at Dodger Stadium.
Making his third big league start, Butto walked six in 4 2/3 innings. He gave up two runs and four hits.
“We put the ball in play. We took our walks,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “We’re doing better on just understanding who we are as hitters, swinging at pitches that are strikes, and we’re going to continue to get better.”
Mason Thompson completed a five-hitter for the Nationals’ first shutout this season and third victory in four games. He worked three quick innings to earn his second major league save and first this year.
Washington pitchers finished with a season-high 13 strikeouts.
Back from a 7-3 West Coast trip, the Mets dropped their third straight in the opener of a seven-game homestand against two division rivals. New York was blanked for the fourth time this year.
“We weren’t real crisp defensively tonight,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Just before the game, the Mets played a video tribute to Nationals first baseman Dominic Smith, who spent 2017-22 with New York after the club selected him in the first round of the 2013 amateur draft. Smith saved a run with a good defensive play in the fifth when he came off the bag to corral an errant throw.
Nationals: LHP Sean Doolittle (elbow) threw live batting practice in Florida with a goal of about 20 pitches and felt “really good,” Martinez said. … The team hopes OF Corey Dickerson (strained left calf) can begin running by next week. … INF Ildemaro Vargas (right shoulder strain) is getting close to a rehab assignment. He is doing all baseball activities but still feels “a little bit of a pinch swinging right-handed,” Martinez said.
Mets: RHP Justin Verlander remains scheduled for a minor league rehab start Friday, though Showalter declined to reveal where. If all goes well, Verlander would then likely make his Mets debut next week at Detroit, his original team. The three-time Cy Young Award winner went on the injured list just before opening day with a teres major strain in his upper back. … To open a roster spot for Butto, the Mets placed RHP Edwin Uceta on the 15-day injured list, retroactive to April 23, with a sprained left ankle.
Japanese rookie Kodai Senga (3-0, 4.29 ERA) starts for the Mets in the middle game of the series Wednesday night against LHP MacKenzie Gore (2-1, 3.43).
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