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Will Austin Voth stick as the Washington Nationals’ fifth starter?

SB Nation logo SB Nation 7/17/2019 Patrick Reddington
a man in a baseball game © Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Davey Martinez liked what he saw from Austin Voth on the mound against the Orioles. Will Voth stick as the Nationals’ fifth starter?

Austin Voth impressed with six strong innings on the mound against the Atlanta Braves in his 2019 debut, but the 27-year-old righty struggled in the two starts that followed, giving up 11 hits, five walks, and seven runs total (7.27 ERA) in 8 23 IP, over which hitters put up a combined .306/.390/.417 line against him.

“I think he’s just — it’s taking him a lot of pitches to get outs,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said when asked to diagnose Voth’s issues after start No. 3, “and his pitch counts are really high. He had 4 13 innings today, 96 pitches, I mean that’s a lot. I like the way he threw the ball, he’s just got to be more efficient.”

Voth talked after surrendering five hits and four runs in his outing against Kansas City about Royals’ hitters running up his pitch count and knocking him out early.

“They definitely had me in a lot of deep counts, and they are a team that they are very aggressive,” he explained, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

“They love to hack at first pitch, and I just wasn’t getting the first-pitch outs. I wasn’t getting early-contact outs, and I kind of need some of those throughout the game, throughout each inning.”

Going up against the Orioles last night in Baltimore, MD’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards, in his fourth start of the season, Voth put three O’s on with a pair of walks around a hit batter with one out in the first, but worked his way out the early jam, popping up Anthony Santander and then getting a groundout from Dwight Smith, Jr. to leave’em loaded.

Voth gave up a solo home run by Hanser Alberto in the home-half of the second inning, a half-inning after the Nationals jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but that was the only run he gave up overall.

Voth held the Orioles there through six, as the Nationals scored three unanswered runs to take a 4-1 lead, and the starter was done for the night after throwing just 84 pitches, 57 of them strikes, and giving up just four hits, a walk, and the one earned run in what ended up an 8-1 win.

Austin Voth’s Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 84 P, 57 S, 5/4 GO/FO.

“He settled down and he was awesome,” Martinez said after the game. “I mean, he settled down, started throwing strikes, got command of all his pitches, kept the ball down for the most part, went up when he had to, but he pitched effectively, and that was good to see.”

How did he settle down?

“I think he just — he got into his legs a little more,” Martinez explained, “... and he stayed behind the baseball, and that was huge.

“He was getting out a little in front of himself a little bit, so [Pitching Coach Paul Menhart] went out and talked to him and he settled down and then he just started pitching.”

Voth said it had more to do with his ability to grip the ball on a hot night in Maryland.

“I definitely wasn’t comfortable in that first inning,” Voth told reporters, “the ball kept kind of slipping out of my hand, and hit two guys and didn’t have my command, but just had to bear down and had to go one pitch at a time, felt like I just kind of slowed my mechanics.

“I felt like I was going a million miles — I was just too fast, and so I just kind of had to slow things down.”

What was behind the ball slipping out of his hand? Humidity, perspiration?

“I was having that same tendency in the bullpen too, but it could have been a little bit of a sweat, it was pretty warm out today, but yeah, I don’t know, I had to get rosin more than I usually do in the past,” Voth said.

And as for slowing things down? How does one go about doing that on the mound?

“Take a deep breath,” Voth said. “Go to the back of the mound and just try and think and analyze what your next move is going to be, what pitch you want to throw, and then just literally slow down your mechanics.

“I felt like I just kind of slowed down my mechanics by like just a small tick.”

Martinez said previously that he likes Voth’s poise and presence on the mound, and he saw more of the same from the starter in his return to the rotation after he was optioned to the minors as the All-Star Break approached.

What’s behind the starter’s poise and calm mound presence? Voth shared his thinking as he tried to get out of trouble early last night’s outing.

“I feel like I just want to go out and perform to the best of my ability. Things weren’t going my way,” he said of his first-inning troubles, “but I was one pitch [from getting] out of the inning.

“There was one out, I could always get a ground ball out and get a double play, so I’m never out of the inning. I’m always confident in my stuff.”

“I think that’s a good quality that I really have about myself,” Voth said, “is I’m very confident in what I have, all of my pitches and whatnot, and that definitely helped me get out of the first inning.”

So will Voth stick as the Nationals’ fifth starter?

“We’ll see,” Martinez said. “Right now, like I said, he’s been up here and he’s pitched well, and I like what I’m seeing, and like I said, you see like if he struggles for a few innings or a few pitches, he has that poise, and he gets right back into that rhythm again, and I kind of like that.”

Is it important to the manager that they have one pitcher settle into that fifth spot in the Nats’ rotation?

“We’ll see what happens in the next five or six days, but I definitely, for me I’d like to see him stay with us.”

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