Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz, the über prospects the Dodgers traded a year ago to acquire Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, were the battery of the Washington Nationals Tuesday night.
Seeing them toil for the last place Nationals in an 8-3 win over the Dodgers, the questions were clear, though the answers aren’t. At least not yet.
Which team won the deal? Or was it a wash?
At the time, it seemed like a steal for the Dodgers. But they didn’t make it to the World Series and Scherzer didn’t re-sign. Turner, a post-season free agent, is playing at the level of a very valuable player, but shouldn’t the Dodgers have to win the World Series to make it worth giving up on their top two prospects?
Gray, a starting pitcher with electrical stuff, throws more than one batter per inning and allows less than one basehit per inning. Ruiz, a switch-hitting catcher, is solid defensively and makes quick contact from both sides of the plate. Both are under team control until 2028, the cornerstones of the Nationals’ rebuilding plan.
Still, they have one major blemish: Gray gives up too many home runs. Ruiz doesn’t hit them enough.
Gray has hit for a whopping 42 home runs in 167-2/3 career innings. Mookie Betts greeted him with a 404-foot blast to midfield in the first inning Tuesday — the 14th in 18 starts this season, Gray has handed in a home run — and Cody Bellinger hit a soaring drive to the right on the first pitch of the fifth collection.
Betts thwarted a scoring threat from Nationals in the fifth when he threw Victor Robles at the plate on Josh Bell’s two-out single, but the defense hurt the Dodgers in the eighth.
The inning started with a throwing error by second baseman Gavin Lux, and Luis García homered against reliever Garrett Clevinger on a 0-and-2 pitch with two outs to give Washington a 4-3 lead.
“I kind of let it go,” Clevinger said. “Hung it in a bad place.” Referring to Lux’s mistake, Clevinger said, “It happens to everyone. We are all human. The next 100 times he will make that game.”
Clevinger was called up from triple A before the game to give what manager Dave Roberts called “a fresh arm.” Roberts stayed with him in the ninth as he wanted to give several other relievers off the night and the Nationals scored four insurance runs.
Ruiz, who bats .249, singled in one of those runs. However, he has only three home runs in 310 at bats. He doesn’t hit much, but makes weak contact too often on pitches outside the strike zone.
Regardless of their longball shortcomings, Roberts holds Ruiz and Gray in high regard.
About Gray: “I love Josiah very much. What stands out is the fastball; it is a unique fastball. It’s a low arm slit, there’s a rise, and there’s a slide in it. He was very good against right-handed batters and had a harder time against left-handed batters.”
About Ruiz: “Keibert will be a very good player for a long time. The main thing for him is to take on the catching duties and become familiar with the throwers. There has never been much power, but he has elite bat-to-ball skills from both sides of the plate. ”
The Dodgers and Nationals may be working another mega trade before the August 2 trade TBEN this year. Washington considers offers for superstar Juan Soto and the Dodgers have the tempting young players to strike a deal.
If that happened, the Dodgers would have to win another World Series or three before Soto could become a free agent after the 2024 season. And the Nationals should successfully rebuild around the plethora of prospects.
Anything less from both teams, and winner and loser should be easy to determine.
Dodgers change tune on Taylor
A few weeks ago, Roberts made it clear that Chris Taylor, the utility company’s valuable man, would only be off the field for the rest of the season due to concerns over his right elbow, which was surgically repaired during the off-season.
Then Taylor went on the injured list on July 5 with a broken foot, and is now about to go on a minor league rehab assignment.
Will he only play outfield or will he mix second base? Have the Dodgers changed their stance?
“We have the sense that a lot of it was elbow-driven and gave it time to heal,” Roberts said. “We just feel like he can handle the different arm angles of the infield and outfield, so if he takes grounders in the infield, we have more options.
“I just don’t think there are many downsides to Chris getting comfortable with second base again.”
And if the Dodgers take over Juan Soto on the trade TBEN, Taylor wouldn’t have an outfield spot. Reminded of that possibility, Roberts laughed and said, “That’s right, that’s right.”
Heaney to try again
Left-hander Andrew Heaney makes his fourth start of the season and first since June 19, when he takes the mound against the Nationals on Wednesday.
Heaney made two very effective starts at the start of the season before missing two months with a sore left shoulder. His return lasted only one start, when he was dominant again and yet again injured the shoulder.
In 15-1/3 innings over three starts, he gave up one run while striking out 23. His ERA is 0.59.
Roberts said Heaney would be limited to about 75 places on Wednesday. Heaney scored only twice in his nine-year career against the Nationals, giving up four runs in seven innings.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.