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Ruiz And Batterymate: Nationals Shutout Mets

Image Credit: Bill Menzel/ Latino Sports

FLUSHING, NY — Dominic Smith was in the front of the Washington Nationals clubhouse at Citi Field Tuesday evening. He was relaxed, talking to a few of the younger Nats that are a part of their rebuilding team.

The Mets were down the hall and once his comfort zone in the home clubhouse, but for the first time since 2016 he was on the other side. It was familiar, yet unfamiliar territory for him.

“It feels good to be back,” Smith said prior to the Mets first of a three game series with his former team. “My time with the Mets were some of the biggest memories of my life and something I will ever be grateful for.”

He said he never liked playing the nationals during his tenure as a Met, but said everything happens for a reason and was extremely thankful for the Nationals. He wants to help the youngsters and help his team in the rebuilding process.

Smith, though, did not play a major role in the Nationals 5-0 win. It was the pitching of Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz, batterymates acquired from the Dodgers in July of 2021 that had a major role.

Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

Gray had a 1.59 ERA in his past four starts, 0-2 and the 12.00 ERA in three previous starts against the Mets. He loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth and Starling Marte struck out on a nasty slider. The Mets are struggling at the plate, losing their last three after dropping two straight to the Giants off a successful 7-3 road swing out west also against the Athletics and Dodgers.

However, this night was all about the Nationals. Last season the Mets won 14 of 19 games between the two teams, also finishing 50-26 with teams in the NL East. But the rebuilding Nationals sitting last again in the division, displayed something good with Gray and Ruiz.

Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

“Big pitch right there,” Ruiz said about the pitch that got Marte. “I’m glad he got through the sixth inning and we got a win.”

Ruiz (Valencia, Venezuela) and Gray traded in that blockbuster with the Dodgers for Max pitcher Max Scherzer and shortstop Trea Turner, hit a solo home run (#2) to right-center off Mets starter and loser Joe Butto in the second inning. It was the first time as batterymates with Nationals that Ruiz produced a home run and Gray was on the mound.

“His slider was good, his fastball was good.” Ruiz said about Gray. “We were on the same page. I learned from him, he learned from me.”

Asked about the home run support he provided for Gray, Ruiz said, “I got a good swing. I got the hit, he got the win. I been with him four years and we are on the same page. I wished every time he pitched I got a homer.”

Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

Ruiz let out a laugh after the comment about batterymates doing this more often, and Nationals manager Dave Martinez was impressed with how they work as a unit.

“I think he (Gray) surprised them a lot,” Martinez said about the Mets going down on strikes with the fastball. “He threw a lot of first-pitch strikes, and then he used his cutter and his slider from that. What a great day.”

The Nationals, young and expected to finish last again in the division, did not resemble a team that the Mets dominated last year. Perhaps the Mets were lethargic after their 11-day 10-game road swing.

Gray struck out nine, a season high for the Nationals and in his starts had been outscored 11-1 against the Braves, Rockies, Angels and Orioles. Ruiz also hit his first home run when Gray pitched against Atlanta on April 1.

Ruiz went 3-for-4 with his home run. And in the sixth inning, Gray got more support with a Luis Garcia two-run double to right-center field, a homecoming of sorts for the Dominican Republic native who spent his younger years in New York.

Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

Perhaps a glimpse of what could come for the Nationals, a team with a low payroll and building within their minor league system. They are patient and look at Gray and Ruiz as being a part of that long term plan, as the Nationals recorded their first shutout of the season.

Ruiz had his third three-hit game of the season and is tied with Seam Murphy for most such games by a catcher this season. Gray, a New Rochelle NY native recorded his third career start of 6.0 scoreless innings and seventh with nine or more strikeouts.

“The work he’s putting in, it’s paying off,” Gray said about Ruiz. “To get my first win here in New York, on the season, and in New York as well, is pretty cool and definitely one I’m going to enjoy.”

One game the Mets did not enjoy. Then again, the Nationals will look at this as another stepping stone in their rebuilding process.

Rich Mancuso: Co-editor and senior writer Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso.

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