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Washington Nationals news & notes: MacKenzie Gore leads Nats to 1st 2023 win, 4-1 over Atlanta Braves...

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ series-salvaging win on Sunday afternoon...

MacKenzie Gore In D.C.:

MacKenzie Gore, a 2017 1st Round pick by San Diego’s Padres, got off to an impressive start in the majors early last season, posting a 1.50 ERA, a 2.20 FIP, 17 walks, 57 strikeouts, and a .200/.279/.241 line against over his first nine games, eight starts, and 48 innings pitched in the big leagues.

Over the seven games (and five starts) which followed, however, those numbers ballooned to an 11.05 ERA, an 8.29 FIP, 20 BBs, 15 Ks, and a .333/.454/.615 line against in 22 IP before the pitcher’s left elbow became an issue and he was placed on the IL, just days before the Padres traded him to the Nationals at the ‘22 trade deadline.

Gore made four starts at Triple-A Rochester in the Nats’ system late last season, but the club didn’t bring him back to the majors for his debut with his new team.

“I wanted to pitch,” Gore said on MASN’s Hot Stove show this past winter.

“It was different being traded and I wasn’t throwing when I got traded, so I wanted to get back out there and that’s kind of the best way to get to know guys, but I also understood we needed to be smart. I needed to be smart.

“I knew why I had got to where I was, so I understood.”

Gore made his Nationals Park debut back on March 28th, in the final exhibition game of the spring.

New York Yankees v Washington Nationals Exhibition Photo by Diamond Images via Getty Images

“It was fun,” Gore said of his initial outing in his new home, as quoted by’s Mark Zuckerman. “I’ve been waiting a while, all of us. Yeah, it was great.”

Gore went 3 23 innings in the outing, walking two and striking out four.

“We got some work in today and now it’s on to the Braves,” Gore said, looking forward to his regular season debut with the Nationals. “Felt good.”

“Last year we were hoping to get him on the mound, but we wanted to be careful with him,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters before the third of three with Atlanta in D.C. Sunday afternoon.

“But he worked really hard this winter, he worked hard this spring, started throwing the ball really well towards the end [of Spring Training].”

In addition to watching his mechanics, and making sure he doesn’t speed up with all that’s going on for him in the outing, Martinez said he would be watching to make sure that Gore maintained his composure on the mound.

“He beats himself up a lot,” the sixth-year manager explained. “And I just got to make sure we keep him under control, and just go pitch to pitch and let’s just let things happen.

“[Catcher] Keibert [Ruiz] has done a great job with him the last two outings in Spring Training, just kind of calming him down a little bit in-between innings.

“But we got to keep an eye on that, and [Pitching Coach Jim Hickey] has talked to him a lot about — it’s not an end-all just one pitch, you got to get ready for the next pitch.

“There was times I saw him throw a really good pitch, and a guy fouls it off and he gets all — you know? And I’m like, ‘Hey, they got a bat for a reason, you know?

“So don’t get all wrapped up in just one pitch, let’s get to the next one.”

Finally getting to see Gore in a regular season start for the Nationals did have Martinez a bit excited before the game.

“He was really good at one point with San Diego, really good,” Martinez said.

“So when we got him in the trade, he was a big piece, so we know what he can do. And I’m just happy now that he’s healthy and we get to see him firsthand in his debut here with us, so I’m looking forward to just watching him go out there and compete.”

Gore’s Debut:

Gore retired the first six batters he faced, on 30 pitches, with a 4-0 lead to work with after the first. He issued a leadoff walk in the top of the third, but erased it with a 5-4-3 DP, and a grounder to second ended a 12-pitch frame which left him at 42 total after three scoreless, with 10 called strikes (all on his fastball) and five swinging strikes (three on his fastball).

Gore issued a second consecutive leadoff walk in the top of the fourth inning, putting the Braves’ leadoff man, Ronald Acuña, Jr., on first base, and he fell behind 2-0 on Matt Olson, prompting catcher Keibert Ruiz to run out to the mound for a brief chat, but he bounced back with three straight strikes, two called, one swinging, with his fastball, for a K and the first out.

A 2-2 slider to Austin Riley got another swinging K for the Nats’ lefty, but Ozzie Albies lined an 0-1 slider up and in out to left for the first hit of the game off the Nationals’ starter.

Acuña, Jr. took second on the Albies’ hit, and scored in the next at-bat, on Travis d’Arnaud’s RBI single to center, 4-1 Nationals after three and a half.

Gore was up to 66 pitches and five Ks after striking out three in the fourth, then he issued his third walk of the game with one out in the Braves’ half of the fifth, putting the catcher, Sean Murphy, on base, but a 1-1 slider to Orlando Arcia got a grounder back to the mound and Gore started an inning-ending 1-4-3 DP which ended a 13-pitch frame, leaving him at 79 total over five innings pitched.

A one-out walk to Matt Olson in the sixth, Gore’s 4th free pass, on his 89th overall pitch, drew pitching coach Jim Hickey out for a chat, and a one-out broken-bat single by Austin Riley, on a 95 MPH, 1-2 fastball, pushed him up to 93 pitches total and ended his outing...

Hunter Harvey took over and got an inning-ending double play to keep it a 4-1 game. It was the third DP of the game for the Nats’ defense.

Gore finished the outing with 13 swinging strikes overall, eight on his fastball, and 17 called strikes, 14 on his four-seamer, which he threw 65% of the time (60 of 93 total pitches).

MacKenzie Gore’s Line: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 6 Ks, 93 P, 56 S, 5/2 GO/FO.

Bullpen Action + Gore Post Game Comments:

Hunter Harvey got the Nationals through the sixth, Erasmo Ramírez worked around a two-out double for a scoreless seventh, and Carl Edwards, Jr., with help from a couple of nice plays by Jeimer Candelario at third base, worked around a one-out walk and a passed ball for a scoreless top of the eighth before Kyle Finnegan finished off the first win of the new season, 4-1 final.

“It was good,” the Nats’ skipper said of Gore’s first regular season outing with the club.

“Like I’ve said before, the thing for me is getting him in the strike zone, and when he does that he’s got electric stuff. We saw that. He fell behind a few times, but he was able to get back in the counts because he’s able to get foul balls and swings and misses, but he was good. Really good. All his pitches were really good. We talk all the time about the leadoff walks, that’s something that we’re going to keep harping on, with not just him, just with everybody. But I loved it. He went out there and attacked, attacked, attacked, and it was awesome.”

“It’s been a long time,” Gore said of getting back on the mound in the majors. “It was great. It was about us figuring out how to win, and we made plays when we needed to, we made pitches as a staff, and we had a big first inning, so it was great.”

Line Moving:

Braves’ starter Jared Shuster, a 24-year-old, 2020 1st Round pick by Atlanta (25th overall) threw 21 pitches before recording his first out in the majors, struggling at the start of his debut this afternoon, with back-to-back singles, a base-loading walk, run-scoring hit, and back-to-back RBI walks before he got a pop to short for out No. 1, with the score 3-0 early, and a fourth run scored on a sac fly, 4-0, before he escaped a loooong, 26-pitch opening frame.

Shuster held it there, and he hung around into the fifth, as the Braves got on the board in the fourth, 4-1, but a two-out walk to Keibert Ruiz in the home half of the inning, the fifth from the starter, ended his outing after 79 pitches in 4 23 IP (6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 1 K, 4/4 GO/FO).

Robles 2.0?:

In case you were busy and missed it, Victor Robles went 15 for 47 (.319/.360/.511) with four doubles, a triple, and a home run in 18 Grapefruit League games this spring, and the now-25-year-old outfielder went 1 for 2 with two walks and a run scored in his 2023 debut.

Robles went 1 for 2 with a walk and a single in the second game of the new season Saturday afternoon, and his manager talked after the game about the work his center fielder put in to prepare for the 2023 campaign, and the changes he made at the plate.

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

“Victor is doing really well, really well,” Davey Martinez said after the club’s 7-1 loss to Atlanta in the nation’s capital on Saturday afternoon. “He had a good Spring Training. He’s taking what he did in Spring Training into the first couple games, but the best thing is is that he’s accepting his walks, and when he does that he’s getting the ball in the strike zone. He’s hitting the ball hard so we’ve got to keep him going.

“We’re two games in, but so far I like what he’s doing and I’m proud of him, because he committed to making changes and so far he looks good.”

For Robles, a career .187 hitter on sliders, and a .163 AVG against breaking balls overall last season, Martinez said one of the big keys is identifying and laying off sliders.

“We’re trying to get him to lay off the sliders,” Martinez explained, “but like I said, he made a whole adjustment, he’s got a two-strike approach now that’s really helped him and he’s just really trying to put the ball in play.”

Robles went 0 for 3 with a couple Ks in Sunday’s game.

Dickerson To IL:

Before the finale with Atlanta in D.C., Washington placed outfielder Corey Dickerson on the 10-Day Injured List with a left calf strain, after the veteran outfielder left Saturday’s game in the eighth.

“Corey has a left calf thing going on,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters after the loss on Saturday afternoon.

“We don’t know what it is yet. He’s going to go get a scan tomorrow and we’ll figure out what’s going on.”

“It tightened up on him I think after the sixth or seventh inning,” Martinez explained.

When he spoke again after Dickerson went on the IL and Stone Garrett got the call up from Triple-A Rochester, Dickerson hadn’t yet gone for an MRI.

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

“Corey, he’s getting an MRI today, but he woke up again sore,” Martinez said.

“He’s got — as of right now, a left calf strain, so [we’d] rather it be a shorter stint than try to push it and it becomes a bigger issue.”

Martinez said the issue cropped up while Dickerson was jogging in from left field at the end of an inning, and he tested it in an at-bat, but didn’t feel right.

“He hit, and he said it wasn’t feeling right. He’s had this issue last year too, the same area, so...”

Garrett, 27, signed with the Nationals as a free agent this winter, after making his MLB debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, and the outfielder/DH will play some left for the Nats, but, Martinez said, could play anywhere in the outfield he’s needed.

“He did well this spring. Gives us another right-handed bat as well, so that’s kind of nice. He got in early this morning, so I just told him be ready off the bench today. I want him to get kind of acclimated to the field. He’s going out there and taking some fly balls. But we got some lefties that we’re going to be facing the next few days, so we’ll probably get him in the game.”