Former UCLA pitcher Matt Grace made his major league debut Wednesday night for the Washington Nationals. The left-hander pitched a scoreless seventh inning in the Nationals’ 7-5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Grace replaced Doug Fister to start the inning. He got left-handed hitters Matt Carpenter and Jason Heyward to ground out before getting a coaching visit to the mound. Grace walked Matt Holliday on a 3-and-2 pitch and got Matt Adams to ground out to end the inning.
Ten of Grace’s 15 pitches were strikes with his fastball registering at 91-92 mph and his slider at 82-84 mph.
Grace was called up from triple-A Syracuse earlier in the day when the Nationals put reliever Felipe Rivero on the disabled list because of gastrointestinal bleeding and traded reliever Xavier Cedeno to the Dodgers for cash.
The Nationals selected Grace in the eighth round of the 2010 amateur draft out of UCLA after he was a key reliever on the team that featured No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole and No. 3 pick Trevor Bauer in the starting rotation. Cole, Bauer and the Bruins’ third starter, Rob Rasmussen, and reliever Erik Goeddel are pitching or have pitched in the majors.
Grace was third on the UCLA team with 33 appearances in 2010, compiling a 0-1 record with one save and a 3.18 earned-run average. He struck out 23 batters in 28-1/3 innings.
Last year was Grace’s breakout minor league season. He was 5-1 with a 1.17 ERA in 50 appearances between double-A Harrisburg and Syracuse. He pitched 77 innings, giving up only 60 hits and striking out 62 batters. This season with Syracuse, he gave up three runs in 7-2/3 innings.