MacKenzie Gore gave up four runs, two in each of the first two innings of his fourth start of the spring back on March 12th, but wrapped up the outing by retiring eight of the last nine batters he faced.
Gore, 24, talked to reporters after that outing about getting off to better starts than he had to that point this spring, and in the big picture, not just in his four Grapefruit League starts to that point, but in his pro career.
“I need to get better at starting,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“That’s always been a thing my whole life.”
Gore did, however, take solace in the fact he finished strong after the early trouble in the outing.
“In the past, I’ve let games like that balloon into six, eight runs. So that was good,” he explained.
“We came back, and the last two innings were much better than the first two.”
His manager, Davey Martinez, suggested it was a mechanical issue which was the problem when Gore’s struggled.
“He gets ahead of himself a little bit, and his arm drags,” Martinez told reporters.
“That’s why he had all those misses.”
A between-innings tweak, suggested by the skipper and pitching coach Jim Hickey, (to his pitch selection, throwing more changeups, which they hoped would force Gore to get fully extended at his release point), seemed to do the trick as Gore settled in and then finished strong.
“I think we made an adjustment. We started mixing in other things,” Gore said.
“A lot of fastballs early. That was my fault. I was behind (in the count). But we started mixing things up. They were aggressive. So we started mixing it up, and things got much better.”
Four singles, a two-run home run, and a walk in the third inning of his fifth start of the spring resulted in four of the five runs Gore let up on March 17th, and a second homer, allowed in the fourth inning of the game, accounted for the fifth run.
“You don’t want to give up four or six (runs), but it’s more being behind in the count, things like that,” Gore said when asked about his struggles in the outing and this spring overall (7.07 ERA in 14 IP to that point). “We’re capable of getting ahead in the count and getting people out. But I’m just not doing a very good job of that right now. … It is Spring Training, but I do need to pitch a little better.”
Martinez said he thought it was a matter of Gore being a little too critical of each pitch he’s throwing this spring.
“Honestly, we’ve got to get him to stop,” Martinez said. “You’ve got to go out there and just compete. We’ve got to get him back into just competing and not being so critical about every pitch he (throws). We’ve got to get him to relax a little bit. He’s really good, and he’s going to get better. But he’s got to understand: Just get to the next pitch and focus on getting outs.”
Gore echoed his manager’s assessment in breaking down his own outing:
“I think there’s probably been a time this spring where I put too much pressure on myself before this. I’ve just got control what I can control, and good things will happen. We’ve got some guys that are going to step up, and we’re going to still pitch. But that’s a tough blow. He’s really good, and he’s been fun to watch this spring.”
Start No. 6 for Gore yesterday was a significant improvement based on reports from the game, though it wasn’t broadcast on TV or on the radio, so we had to rely on trusty beat reporters to relay the information:
7 strikeouts for MacKenzie Gore through 4 scoreless innings. He's thrown 48-of-63 pitches for strikes and has thrown first-pitch strikes to a whopping 12-of-14 batters faced.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) March 22, 2023
MacKenzie Gore vs. a Yankee lineup with several regulars (including Torres, Rizzo, Stanton): 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K, 81 pitches, 55 strikes. First-pitch strikes to 17-of-20 hitters. Fastball was 93-96. By far the best he's looked this spring.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) March 22, 2023
MacKenzie Gore got ahead of seven of the eight batters he faced in the first two innings this afternoon. That's a good sign after his command wavered in recent appearances. More here: https://t.co/RymqNTmdWA— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) March 22, 2023
MacK attacked. #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/3o6GDosZq4— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 22, 2023
“That was a big one, a big step in the right direction. We’ve just got to build off this one,” Gore said, as quoted on MASNSports.com, after he struck out eight in six scoreless over which he threw 81 total pitches:
“My focus today was first-pitch strikes,” he said. “We were going to go at guys early. And if we don’t get the first pitch, let’s try to get to 1-1. Whatever happens after that, that’s what’s going to happen.”