FRONT PAGE - Gore in Coors:
For the first time since July 25, 2022, MacKenzie Gore took the mound in a major league game last week, throwing 5 1⁄3 strong in which he gave up three hits, four walks, and an earned run in what ended up a 4-1 win for the Washington Nationals who acquired Gore from the San Diego Padres at least year’s deadline, shortly after he was shut down, with elbow issues, which he rehabbed from in the Nats’ system late last season.
Gore made rehab starts in the minors, but didn’t return to the majors in ‘22, after making his debut earlier in the year, so getting back on a big league mound meant a lot.
“It’s been a long time,” the 24-year-old southpaw said after his first start in his new team’s home ballpark.
“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.”
“It was my debut with this team,” Gore said at another point, “... but today was an important day, but it wasn’t necessarily about me. We needed to figure out how to win. We’re capable of beating this team, like we showed today. It was more about that than — this wasn’t about me today.”
Considering the magnitude of the trade he was acquired in, as part of the package the Nats received in return for Juan Soto and Josh Bell, his manager said it was great to see a healthy Gore back on the mound.
“Look, when we made the trade and he was involved in it, we were all excited. And to see him out there and competing the way he competed today was awesome. He picked us all up today, so great job by him and his teammates,” Martinez said.
“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.”
Martinez told reporters in Colorado he wanted to see more of the same from Gore in start No. 2.
“I want him to go out there and repeat what he did last time,” the manager said. Once again we talk a lot with our young pitchers to get the ball in the zone, get ahead early, and then go from there, and that’s something I want to really continue to work on with MacKenzie. His stuff is so good, but we need him to work ahead.”
Gore shouted at/to himself and cringed without bothering to watch the 2-2 slider he left up right over the middle for Ryan McMahon in the first at-bat of the Rockies’ second leave the yard.
McMahon hit it 443 ft. to right in Coors Field for his 2nd HR of the season after the Nationals jumped out to a 4-0 lead with the second two-run inning in the top of the frame. That was it for the home team through two innings.
Gore came out for the third up 6-1, and retired the side in order. He was up to 51 pitches on the night, and the Nationals’ southpaw got two outs after giving up a leadoff single in the bottom of the fourth, but a two-out walk extended the inning, and a two-out RBI single off of Yonathan Daza’s bat drove in the second run of the game for the Rockies, before a throw in from right by Lane Thomas on the play got the final out of the frame at third base, 6-2 Nats.
It was 8-2 when Gore worked around a leadoff single in a scoreless sixth which left him at 98 pitches overall on the night, and that was it for his second outing of the season...
MacKenzie Gore’s Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 98 P, 64 S, 6/4 GO/FO.
Gore got 13 swinging strikes, 10 on his curve, and 17 called strikes, 14 with his fastball in a solid outing for the Nats, who went on to win their second game of eight so far, in Gore’s second start of the year.
“MacKenzie threw the ball well again,” his manager said after the 10-5 win.
“He’s done well. I don’t what to say about him. He’s a competitor. He gets a little heated up when something doesn’t go right for him, but I thought he threw the ball really well.”
The pitcher he’s seen over the first two starts this season, is the pitcher the Nats thought they were getting in the trade last August.
“We saw him playing on another team and what he could be,” Martinez said.
“And he’s healthy and he’s throwing the ball really right now for us, so we’re excited about that, really excited about that.”
“It’s been good,” Gore said in assessing his first two outings this season.
“Definitely some stuff we can get better at, but the games I’ve pitched, we’ve played great. It’s just cool to be a part of it.”
The lefty said he was happy with the way he and catcher Keibert Ruiz adjusted to what was working in the mile-high air of Coors Field.
“We stopped throwing the slider, I’m sure you all could tell,” he explained. “The curveball, I just had a better feel for getting it where I needed to, so it was good though, Keibert saw it and we made the adjustment, and that’s big for this place, because it can get ugly quick.”
Erasmo Ramírez gave up three straight hits in the bottom of the seventh inning, back-to-back singles (by Elias Diaz and Yonathan Diaz) and an RBI double (by Ezequiel Tovar) with one run scoring to make it an 8-3 game, and another came in on a groundout before the Nationals went to the pen again, 8-4.
Martinez on Ramírez’s outing: “He was trying to get the ball up, the ball was down, just missing spots, but he’s fine.”
Hunter Harvey took over, and gave up an RBI single by Kris Bryant, 8-5.
Carl Edwards, Jr. in the eighth and Kyle Finnegan in the ninth wrapped this one up, 10-5 final.
Martinez on Finnegan’s clean outing after struggling in 2 of 3 appearances to start the year: “We wanted to get him back out there and it was a good day to get back out there and it was good day for him to get back out there and ease him back into it and he threw the ball really well today.”
BACK PAGE - Building Something:
Following a rare 1-0 loss in the series opener Denver (like the “11th [1-0 game] at Coors Field since it opened in 1995”-type rare), Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said once his club built up some momentum, things might start to click for the offense.
“We got such a young group,” Martinez explained, “... and they’re all trying to start off good and impress, and I think once we start settling in a little bit, and now we’re on the road for the first time, and we’re in Colorado, Opening Day, all that plays, but we start settling in I think we’re going to be just fine. Like I said, I’ve seen some good things, even though the record doesn’t show it. We’ve faced some tough pitching, they worked some good at-bats. We had some opportunities to bust the game open, bases loaded, no outs, we couldn’t do it, but that’s going to come.”
“We got to keep swinging the bat but we got to get the balls in the strike zone,” he added in his post game presser following the shutout loss in the Rockies’ home opener, “... and don’t miss, right? But we can’t tell them [to] start taking pitches. No, be aggressive, be aggressive in the strike zone, but when you get your pitch, let it go.”
Game 2 of 4 in Coors?
Alex Call got all of a 2-1 fastball from José Ureña and hit it out to left in Coors Field for a solo home run off the right-handed starter in the first at-bat of Friday’s game against the Rockies.
Jeimer Candelario hit one out to right four pitches later, taking a 2-1 sinker for a ride. 2-0.
THE CANDY MAN DELIVERS BACK-TO-BACK JACKS pic.twitter.com/CjOs1mwAz7— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 8, 2023
What offensive issues? The Nationals doubled their home run total through the first seven games of the season in two at-bats, and jumped out to an early lead in the second of four against the Rockies.
Luis García lined a high 2-0 sinker to right-center. Lane Thomas hit an 0-2 slider into left. CJ Abrams stepped in next, in the top of the second, and hit a 103.7 MPH ground ball right by Yonathan Daza at short for a base-loading single of his own, in the first three at-bats of the top of the second.
Victor Robles chased three pitches out of the zone in the next at-bat, but Call walked to put the Nationals up 3-0 on Ureña and the Rox. Candelario hit a sac fly to deep right for another RBI, 4-0.
García lined a two-out single through short in the Nats’ third, advanced on an error on Lane Thomas’s grounder to third, and scored on a two-run triple to center by Abrams, whose 107 MPH liner to center (on a 3-0 sinker low in the zone) drove in two more runs, 6-1 in the third.
Ty Blach took over on the mound for the home team with two out in the third inning.
Abrams hit his second consecutive triple to drive Thomas in in the top of the fifth, putting the Nationals up 7-2 on the Rockies, and he came in standing up after Kris Bryant couldn’t corral the ball, which bounced around on him in the right field corner. Abrams scored from third two batters later, on a sac fly by Call, 8-2.
Joey Meneses doubled with one out in the eighth, and scored on single by Dominic Smith, who moved up on a wild pitch by righty Dinelson Lamet, and scored on a single by Keibert Ruiz, 10-5.
“The thing is this game is so crazy as we all know,” Martinez said after the win.
“Yesterday we lose 1-0, today we come up and put 19-20 hits on the board, and score 10 runs. We just got to keep going, we can’t look back, let’s focus on tomorrow now and get ready for tomorrow, but we swung the bats really well today.”
Luis García was 2 for 4 on the night after grounding out to short to end the top of the sixth, and the 22-year-old shortstop apparently tweaked something on the way to first, grabbing the back of his leg (hamstring area) after running by first, and he was replaced at second by Ildemaro Vargas for the start of the Rockies’ sixth.
“His right hamstring tightened up on him,” Martinez said after the game. “So we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.
“He’ll probably be day-to-day though, but he says he feels fine right now, but we’ll see how he feels.”
Asked if the issue was significant enough to get someone on a plane to Colorado, Martinez pumped the breaks on that sort of talk.
“I think he’s going to be okay,” the manager said.
“They examined him. He’s got good strength. If he needs a day tomorrow, then we can give him a day. But let’s see how he feels tomorrow when he gets up.”
Getting the Call:
Alex Call hit 6th twice, 5th once, and 2nd twice in the first five games he played this season, but Davey Martinez penciled the 28-year-old, right-handed bat in as his leadoff hitter for the second of four in Coors Field last night, giving Call an opportunity.
“The matchup with this guy, [Rockies’ starter José Ureña], I like Alex up there. This guy — he walks some guys. Alex does a great job of being that pesky hitter. See if we can get him on base,” Martinez explained before last night’s game.
Call, as noted above, homered the first time up, and after a sac fly in the fifth, he was up to three RBIs on the night (1 for 2, BB, R, 3 RBIs).
“He’s cut down his chase rate tremendously, and that’s something I like about him,” the 6th-year skipper continued.
“He’s putting the ball in play for the most part, he’s working good at-bats.”
Martinez was also sure to note, as he often does, that too big a deal is made of leading off.
“You’re leading off the game, but honestly after that, you’re just another hitter, you’re going to come up in different situations in the game. But for me, it’s that first inning you want to try to get a guy to get the team going. We’ve tried a lot of guys. As you know, I’ve put some big heavy hitters up there to see if we can get try to get that first run early.
“Today it’s Alex Call, just because of the matchup.”
Good managering, Davey.
“I mean, that’s why I wanted Call at leadoff today,” he said after the win. “And then you know Candy back-to-back like that. Like I said, if we score first it gives our pitchers some runs there early and he settles down really quick. So, it was a good day for our hitters and also for MacKenzie.”