FRONT PAGE - Walks Hurt Gore:
MacKenzie Gore struggled with his command throughout his 3 2⁄3-inning, 88-pitch outing against the LA Angels on the road in Angel Stadium during the last road trip, walking four, striking out six, and giving up four hits and two earned runs in a relatively brief outing for the left-hander.
“When you throw 88 [pitches] in 3 2⁄3, you’re going to shower early,” Gore acknowledged after what ended up a 3-2 loss in which he received no decision.
“MacKenzie just couldn’t throw strikes consistently today,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters following the final matchup of the club’s seven-game road trip to Denver and Anaheim.
“He threw some pitches that were pretty close, I mean, he was around the plate, they just weren’t strikes. So, just one of those days. His pitch count got way up there, so we had to get him out of there.
“But you know what, he’s got five days to be back out there, and I told him after the game, ‘Hey, you’re throwing the ball well ... we just got to keep the ball over the white, make those guys hit the ball, our defense has been playing really well, so let’s come back in five days and do it again.”
Gore got off to a good start in the second of two with the Baltimore Orioles in D.C., with a 10-pitch, eight-strike, 1-2-3 first, picking up two Ks and a fly to center, with all the outs on a curveball (but not the same one, obviously).
MacKenzie Gore, Dirty Curveballs. pic.twitter.com/Mc2ZKQOeyw— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 19, 2023
In a 10-pitch second, the southpaw erased a leadoff single with a 4-6-3 DP, but a leadoff walk, line drive single, and base-loading free pass had Gore up to 19 pitches into the top of the third, without an out, with the O’s threatening to put a crooked number on the board, but Austin Hays hit a hot-shot to third which Jeimer Candelario handled, throwing home for out No. 1.
Gore issued his third walk of the inning (and game) in the next plate appearance, however, putting Adley Rutschman on, and forcing in a run, 1-0 Orioles, before he dialed up a roller over to short which started an inning-ending 6-4-3. The 30-pitch frame left him at 50 total.
Another walk, and, one-out later, a hanging curve, put the Nationals in a 3-0 hole with O’s second baseman Adam Frazier launching the hanging, 2-2 bender up in the zone to right field for a two-run blast and a three-run lead.
Gore tore through the O’s hitters in the fifth, striking out two in a 13-pitch frame which left him at 89 total on the night, and he returned to the mound in the sixth and he set the side down in order in a 14-pitch frame, striking out the final two batters he faced.
MacKenzie Gore’s Line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 103 P, 66 S, 6/1 GO/FO.
Gore recorded 18 swinging strikes, nine with his four-seamer, five with his curve, three with his slider, and one with his changeup, and he picked up 18 called strikes, 14 on his fastball, and two each on his slider and curve in what ended up a relatively strong outing.
“We finished strong, but I’ve got to clean it up a little bit,” Gore said of the outing overall.
“That’s a couple starts in a row where I’m putting us in a bad spot with these walks. Walks happen, that’s part of it. But these were non-competitive. I’m better than that.”
“For MacKenzie, he’s a perfectionist,” Martinez said in assessing Gore’s outing after the 4-0 loss. “We’ve got to get him out of that — if something goes bad, he falls into that category where, ‘Oh no.’ Now, hey, go get that next pitch, get that next hitter, whatever it’s going to take him to get to that. Once he gets through a little situation he comes back and he’s strong. I mean, he really is. He had a tough time today with the lefties. He gave up a home run to Frazier, walked a couple lefties, all he’s got to do is really pound the strike zone against those guys and not lose the strike zone.”
0 For vs O’s:
Alex Call K’d swinging and Dominic Smith lined out to left field with Lane Thomas in scoring position at second base in the top of the fifth inning, leaving the home team in the nation’s capital 0 for 5, with five left on base against O’s’ starter Kyle Bradish, who then stranded a 1-out double at third in the bottom of the sixth to preserve a 3-0 lead and leave the Nationals 0 for 7 with RISP and 6 LOB.
Orioles’ reliever Bryan Baker tossed the 16th scoreless inning against the Nats in the series in the seventh inning, and Cionel Pérez and Yennier Canó combined for a scoreless eighth.
Mike Baumann tossed a scoreless ninth to close out a 4-0 win and the second straight shutout.
Martinez’s club finished the night 0 for 9 with 9 LOB in the loss.
“We’re in a funk as a team, just can’t drive in that run,” Davey Martinez said after dropping both games of the two-game set with the Orioles.
“We out-hit them today. We just can’t get that one big run across the board there.”
“We’re not hitting as a team,” he added at another point.
“We’re very inconsistent on just hitting the ball hard,” the manager explained.
“Right now, I’m just looking for quality at-bats, hitting the ball hard, hitting strikes, getting the ball in the strike zone, being aggressive on the fastballs.
“We’re not doing that as a whole right now. We’re behind, we’re hitting a lot of with two strikes.
BACK PAGE - Robles Report - Down Slightly:
Victor Robles came out swinging this season, with a strong spring and a 14 for 34 run in the first 11 games of the 2023 campaign (.412/.487/.471), but before he got a night off in the 2nd of two with the O’s in D.C. on Wednesday, the 25-year-old outfielder was just 1 for his last 18 over a six-game stretch (.056/.150/.056), with his manager explaining this week that, “He’s just getting a little bit pull-happy.”
“We’ve got to get him back,” Davey Martinez told reporters. “He’s rolling over a little bit.
“We’ve just got to get him back in the middle of the field.”
Overall though, the Nats’ skipper said, he’s been happy with the way Robles has played over the first few weeks of the season.
“He’s been awesome,” Martinez said. “He’s been that way since day one of Spring Training. Since we had that first conversation of Spring Training, he had a plan. And he stuck with the plan, and he’s been really good with it. That’s why you’re seeing the success he’s had. A lot of this is about knowing who you are as a player, and knowing what you want to be. I think he took a lot of things to heart that we talked about before he went [home] this winter. And this is the player I thought he can be. A guy that gets on base, a guy that plays good defense, not trying to do too much. We’ve all seen that the ball comes off the bat when he squares the ball up, but don’t try to be that home run guy, because — in ‘19, he didn’t try to hit home runs, it just happened. I told him, ‘It’ll happen.’ For the most part they pitch him middle-away, ‘We got to get you to stay on the ball, hit the ball the other way,’ and that’s when he’s really good.”
Robles hit 17 home runs in 155 games and 617 PAs in his first full season in the majors in ‘19, as part of the World Series-winning roster, but he’s hit just 11 in 308 games and 1,027 PAs in the past three-plus seasons.
With a good start, a bit of a mini-slump now, and a chance to give Robles two days off with an off-day today, Martinez thought last night was a good opportunity to give the outfielder two days to recharge before a road trip to Minnesota and New York (NL).
“He’s been really good. He really has,” Martinez reiterated. “With the day off tomorrow, I kind of wanted to give him a day. You know how that turns out, it could be just a half a day, but I wanted to kind of get him off his feet a little bit, and give him tomorrow off as well. But like I said, he’s been doing really, really well.”
Davey vs the Orioles:
In his own playing career, Washington’s skipper Davey Martinez raked in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, going 35 for 99 (.354/.436/.465) overall with three doubles, a triple, two home runs, 16 walks, and 15 Ks in 119 plate appearances in the Baltimore Orioles’ home.
“It’s definitely a good place to hit,” Martinez told reporters in a 2018 series in OPACY, during his first season as the Nationals’ manager. “I’ve always enjoyed coming here and playing.”
Overall, in his 16-year playing career, the now-58-year-old, sixth-year skipper in D.C., put up a gaudy .315/.394/.416 line in 57 games and 210 career plate appearances against the O’s.
“I did really well against them, actually,” Martinez said this week, before the first of two with the Nats’ regional rivals in the nation’s capital.
“I hit the ball really well, especially in Camden. So it was fun. I hit a couple home runs there at one point, but back then those guys were — at one point in time I can remember their lineup, I think every one of those guys hit 20+ home runs, so they were pretty stacked. So going in there, you knew you needed to score some runs to compete, but it was always fun playing there.”
The Orioles are his club’s regional rivals, on the field, and, for what seems like an eternity, in the courtroom, where their ongoing dispute over MASN TV rights fees has been playing out for ... ever.
Martinez was asked this week if he and the rest of the Nationals’ brass look to the Orioles as an example of what it might look like when the 2019 World Series winners come out on the other side of their reboot, rebuild, reset, or whatever, which they kicked off with the sell-off of expiring contracts (and a year-plus of Trea Turner) at the trade deadline in 2021.
The Orioles went through their own rebuild, losing 115, 108, and 110 games in full seasons in ‘18, ‘19, and ‘20, respectively, but they finished 83-79 last season, and the O’s EVP & GM Mike Elias declared this spring, “Our rebuild is behind us.”
“Really for the first time since we’ve been here,” Orioles’ manager Brandon Hyde said, as quoted by Baltimore Sun writer Andy Kostka in February 2023.
“We want to build off last year from the expectation standpoint. I’m excited about that, honestly.
“[We feel] like we have a competitive club, and this is the first time we’ve gone in with a true non-rebuild mode of going out to win games.”
“I definitely look, and we all do about where they were and how they started and where they’re at right now,” Martinez said before Tuesday night’s game with the Orioles.
“Last year they had a really good run, and they’re starting off fairly well this year. So, yeah, we can actually see kind of a similarity, where we’re at right now with our young guys, and it’s all about development, right? And those guys have done a good job of developing their young players. I think thus far we’ve done a good job with developing our guys. With that being said, we still have a ways to go.”
As for his experience of the rivalry with the O’s since he took over on the bench in D.C.?
“It’s kind of fun,” he said. “They’re just around the block really, right? It is fun. But for me and for the coaching staff and the players, it’s business as usual. We’re playing an opponent, we try to go 1-0 today. We know they’re close by. A victory would be awesome today, no matter who it is. But it is kind of fun. Plus a good friend of mine over there is the manager as well, so I can’t wait to see him and talk to him and see what’s going on over there, but it will be a lot of fun tonight.”
They went 0-1 on Tuesday, but going into last night’s game, Martinez was confident his club would even things up and earn a split of the two-game set.
“These guys are ready,” he said. “We faced a pretty tough pitcher yesterday. I watched the game last night, and he made some good pitches. So today obviously the thing is to try to go out there and score first, score often, I know these guys are eager to get back out there and bang heads again, so it was a very well played game on both sides yesterday, so let’s see if we can get on top of one of these one-run games here, and leave the homestand with a victory and get a day off and then go to Minnesota.”