MacKenzie Gore & Free Passes:
MacKenzie Gore walked four batters in 3 of 4 starts before taking on the New York Mets last night in Citi Field, and he talked after the third of the four-walk outings about needing to get the free passes under control, since they are creating difficult situations he has to then work his way out of, or, you know, not.
Gore forced in a run with a bases loaded walk in his start against the Baltimore Orioles in his turn in the rotation last week in Nationals Park, after two walks and a single loaded the bases, then he gave up a walk, and one batter later, a two-run home run before a strong finish to the outing which saw him retire the final eight batters he faced, five of them via strikeout.
“The walks, when they come in bunches like that, walking in runs, that’s just not very good,” Gore told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after the lefty’s first loss in four starts early this year.
MacKenzie Gore, 3Ks in the 2nd. pic.twitter.com/QLKTSABEQ4— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 26, 2023
“We finished strong, but I’ve got to clean it up a little bit,” Gore added.
“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.”
“I think for me,” manager Davey Martinez said when asked about all of Gore’s free passes in his first four outings (6.00 BB/9 in 21 IP), “… sometimes he starts speeding up, and he’s got to slow himself down. When he does that, you saw him come out in the last two innings and he had a really good pace. He’s working quick, but yet under control, I think he needs to understand that’s who he is.”
Going into start No. 5, Martinez said he wanted to see the southpaw throw his fastballs for strikes, and stay down in the zone.
“He’s been attacking with his fastball,” the sixth-year skipper explained.
“We’re trying to continue to work with him, getting everything in the zone, keeping the ball down, but his stuff is electric, it really is.
“He’s got a really good slider, fastball moves, and he’s utilizing his changeup a little bit, effectively.
“The biggest thing for him is really getting to understand that he can throw the ball over the white of the plate, and throw strikes, but we’re really going to preach about getting strike one tonight, so hopefully he sticks to that plan and he goes out there and gives us the outing he’s been giving us.”
MacKenzie Gore, Bowel-locking Curveball. pic.twitter.com/Jy7NiV8wHe— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 27, 2023
Gore’s outing against the Mets was arguably his best yet. Over six innings on the mound in the second of three in Flushing, Queens, NY, the 24-year-old starter allowed a run, four hits, and just two walks, striking out 10 of the 25 batters he faced in a dominant, 101-pitch start.
Gore generated 19 swinging strikes on the night, 12 with his fastball, four with his curve, and three with his slider, and he picked up 17 called strikes, nine with his fastball, and eight with his curveball, as he kept the Nationals’ NL East rivals in check in what ended up a 4-1 win for the visiting team.
“When he can pound the strike zone, use his fastball, and throw strike one, he’s going to be what he was today,” Martinez said after the second straight win over the Mets. “He’s very effective. He’s got a lot of movement on his ball, but I was so proud of him just going out there, and trusting his fastball, keeping the ball down and using it. And he did that. Every now and then he threw a slider, when he needed to, but he was good, real good.”
“Got ahead of guys, [catcher Keibert Ruiz] was great, made plays, big win for us,” Gore said succinctly, when asked about his outing.
Gore, who’s often his own harshest critic, was happy with the results this time out.
“This was good. That’s a good team. I just expect a lot out of myself. But this was good. It was a lot of fun,” he said.
MacKenzie Gore, Dirty 84mph Curveball...— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 27, 2023
9th K. pic.twitter.com/R6iJAIARgV
All the called strikes he got, both Gore and Martinez said, were a good sign of how good his stuff really was.
“It’s good. I’m in the zone. I’ve walked quite a few guys coming in, but I’m sure they had an approach to make me be in the zone,” Gore said, “... and we did a good job of that, and it’s tough to hit with two strikes.”
“It was awesome,” Martinez said.
“Those two guys were on the same page today. Keibert again did a great job. Keeping these guys off-balance, it’s tough. Getting the ball inside, not being afraid to throw the ball in there, that’s key. That was big. Like I said, he did an unbelievable job today, he really did.”