clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Washington Nationals news & notes: MacKenzie Gore Ks 11; Royals walk off with 3-2 win; Nats take 2 of 3 in KC...

It didn’t go how the Nationals hoped in the finale with the Royals, but the visiting team took 2 of 3 in KC.

MacKenzie Gore was understandably hyped up going against the team he was drafted by and for whom he made his MLB debut, before they traded him to the Nationals as one of five prospects who came to Washington in return for Juan Soto and Josh Bell last August 2nd.

Gore, 24, ended up throwing 103 pitches in 4 23 innings pitched against the Padres.

He gave up seven hits, four walks, and three runs in a 7-4 loss to San Diego in which the starter received no decision.

“He’s throwing a lot of pitches to get outs,” manager Davey Martinez said when asked about lifting the lefty when he did.

“We got to get him more in the zone, we got to get him down again. But I mean, his stuff is electric, as we all know. 100-something pitches in 4 23 innings, it’s a lot.”

Martinez told reporters he thought his starter was clearly a bit over-amped facing the Padres.

“He’s playing against his former team, we’ve seen it happen,” Martinez said, “so we just got to get him settled down, and like I said, get him in the strike zone.”

“I’m just getting big,” Gore said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after his 10th outing of the 2023 campaign. “Instead of just executing, I’m trying to throw a really good pitch.

“The execution part has just not been there. The stuff is fine, the velo’s been good. I’ve just got to execute.”

Going into start No. 11, Martinez said, the starter and his coaches had a specific focus.

“We talked to him today about just keeping the ball down,” the sixth-year skipper said when he spoke with reporters before the series finale in Kansas City’s Kaufmann Stadium Sunday afternoon.

“He wants to elevate the fastball a lot, and sometimes he doesn’t get it up quite where he should,” Martinez continued, “... but today we talked a lot about how everything plays off everything working down for him, so we’re going to try to get him to keep the ball down. We talked to catcher Riley [Adams] about it, just make sure he works down early in counts.”

This time out, 106 pitches got Gore through seven strong innings, in which he allowed three hits, a walk, and just one earned run, on a one-out solo home run by MJ Melendez in the 7th, and the southpaw set a season high with 11 Ks from 25 batter faced, in what ended up a 3-2 loss in the series finale with the Royals, in which he received no decision.

Gore left the mound with the Nats up 2-1, but Chad Kuhl gave up a game-tying home run in the eighth, and the Royals walked off on an RBI line drive to right field by Michael Massey, a ball Lane Thomas should have dove for, but didn’t, taking it on one hop, and firing the ball home too late to the plate.

Looking at the positives after the club took 2 of 3 in the Royals’ home, Martinez pointed to Gore’s outing on Sunday afternoon.

“It was a great start for him,” the manager said. “We got to keep him right there though, but once again, I talk about him attacking the zone down with his fastball. Everything plays off the fastball down. He threw the ball down really well today. And he was tough. Great outing by him. It stinks that he couldn’t get the win there, but he’s got to come back in five days and do it again.”

“It was much better today,” Gore said of his outing overall, noting how he was able to put hitters away when he got to two strikes, something he struggled to do the last few times.

“I get two strikes and I haven’t been executing,” he explained. “You don’t have to throw a lot of pitches to strike guys out if you execute.

“So just did a better job of that today, and get ready for the next one.”

He’s thrown 61.1% fastballs on the season, but threw 52% in KC, going with his slider 27% of the time (up from his season average of 19.3%), and threw his curve 21% of the time (18.3%).

He generated 23 swinging strikes overall, seven on his fastball, 11 on his slider, and five on his curve, with 14 called strikes, 10 on his fastball and two each on his breaking balls.

What did his manager see from Gore’s fastball in the outing? It was all about location down in the zone, Martinez said.

“Down. Down. We talked a lot [about how] he has nice that carry when that ball is down,” he said. “It makes everything else better. Fastball down, slider is down, even his breaking ball was good today. But I always say, with him he’s got to keep the ball down, he’s got that late rise that carries, and he was really good with it today.”

“Early it didn’t feel great,” Gore said of his fastball, but it came around, and, “... once we got going in the fourth or so, it felt good, and we just kept throwing it.”

And all the strikeouts?

“We put some guys away today,” Gore said. “Last few outings I haven’t done a very good job of that, so yeah, that was a lot of fun.”