Nats look to turn things around at home in rubber match vs. Tigers

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Field Level Media
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May 20, 2023; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Lane Thomas (28) reacts after hitting a double against the Detroit Tigers during the eighth inning at Nationals Park.
May 20, 2023; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Lane Thomas (28) reacts after hitting a double against the Detroit Tigers during the eighth inning at Nationals Park.
Image: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals look to win just their second home series of the season when they face the Detroit Tigers in a rubber match of a three-game series on Sunday

Washington's lone series win at Nationals Park was when it took three of four games against the Chicago Cubs from May 1-4

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At 9-15, Washington has the worst home record in the National League.

The Nationals, who ended a four-game losing streak with a 5-2 win on Saturday after dropping the series opener 8-6 on Friday, will turn to their ace in Sunday's series finale

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Right-hander Josiah Gray (3-5, 2.73 ERA) held the Miami Marlins to two runs (one earned) on seven hits with five strikeouts and three walks in a 5-4 loss in his last start this past Tuesday.

Gray has allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of his past eight starts.

After giving up three homers in his first start of the season on April 1, he's only given up two in his past eight starts combined.

"He's thrown the ball really well, (and) he's got an unbelievable game plan and routine," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Gray, who will be making his first career appearance against the Tigers. "He wants to battle. He wants to pitch deep into games

"I think he's learned in these high-leverage situations to control the heartbeat and get through it."

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On Saturday, the Nationals trailed 2-1 before taking the lead for good in the fifth on Lane Thomas' two-out, two-run single to left. The Nationals extended their advantage to 4-2 in the sixth on Keibert Ruiz's run-scoring single. Jeimer Candelario, who hit a solo homer in the fourth, capped the scoring in the eighth with a double that scored Thomas, who hit a leadoff double

"Those guys are good hitters, too, professional hitters," said Detroit starter Alex Faedo, who allowed three runs on five hits and no walks in five innings on Saturday. "They took advantage of a couple mistakes and also hit a couple of decent pitches. Tip the cap to them."

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Candelario is hitting .522 (12-for-23) with four doubles, a triple, two homers, five RBIs and five runs in his past six games.

"The biggest thing is getting out of his mind about trying to hit home runs every at-bat," Martinez said of Candelario. "Just stay on the ball. He's got enough power that when he hits the ball and gets it in the air, he'll hit home runs. ... That's who he is."

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Thomas, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs on Saturday, has reached base in 17 straight games, hitting .348 during that span.

The Tigers will counter with left-hander Joey Wentz (1-3, 6.38), who yielded three runs on six hits with three strikeouts and a walk in just 2 2/3 innings of a 5-3 win over the Seattle Mariners last Sunday

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"I didn't contribute to the win," said Wentz, who will be making his first career appearance against the Nationals on Sunday. "But nonetheless, great job by the guys.

--Field Level Media