Gore’s Revenge Tour:
Earlier this season, Washington’s manager Davey Martinez expressed some concern about MacKenzie Gore controlling his emotions on the mound when he went up against the San Diego Padres who traded him to D.C. last August, in the deadline deal that sent Juan Soto out west.
“We just got to control is heartbeat a little bit, and hopefully today he just settles down early and gets the outs we need,” Martinez said.
Gore struggled a bit the first time out against his former team, giving up seven hits, four walks, and three runs in just 4 2⁄3 inning pitched, over which he threw 103 pitches (60 of them for strikes).
“100-something pitches in 4 2⁄3 innings, it’s a lot,” Martinez said after the outing.
“He gets in and gets over-amped, I mean, it’s not the first time — even though he’s playing against his former team, we’ve seen it happen, so we just got to get him settled down, and like I said, get him in the strike zone.”
The southpaw downplayed the thinking that facing the team which drafted him in the 1st Round (3rd overall) in 2017 had anything to do with his struggles.
“Once we got here today, I was just figuring out how I was going to attack hitters,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“This wasn’t about me. We’re coming in here trying to win a game. But it was fun. When you know guys, it’s fun to compete against them.”
How do you channel any emotions positively going up against your former team?
“It’s channeling it the right way,” Martinez (who was traded five times in his own 16-year big league career) said before the series finale with the Padres.
“Obviously you do want to perform really well against your [old] team, but you have got to understand, one, who you are, and, [two], what you need to do in order to succeed. You’re going to be amped up, yeah, it’s part of who you are, and you compete, so for him it’s just he’s going to amped up to begin with, but he’s just got to control his emotions.”
“Just control the heartbeat and you’re going to be fine,” he added.
Padres’ hitters had a tough time competing against Gore early in the 3rd of 3 in Petco Park, as the lefty struck out the first six batters he faced, on 33 pitches.
MacKenzie Gore, K'ing the Side (again).— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 25, 2023
6Ks thru 2. pic.twitter.com/34aqNENO9j
Nelson Cruz reached safely on a hard-hit grounder to third base Jeimer Candelario knocked down but bobbled in the first at-bat of the third, but Gore dialed up a 6-4-3 DP to erase the first batter to reach base, and he stranded a two-out walk with a force at second to finish up three scoreless on 49 pitches.
Gore got two outs in the fourth, before giving up his first hit, on a line drive single to left by Manny Machado. Xander Bogaerts followed with a single to center off Gore’s glove, but K No. 8, on a fastball he threw by Jake Cronenworth, got the starter through four scoreless on 76 pitches.
The home team got to Gore in the sixth, however, with Ha-Seong Kim walking with two out, Trent Grisham (who grounded into a force at 2nd in the previous at-bat, then stolen his way into scoring position) coming in on an RBI single to right by Fernando Tatis, Jr, 1-1. Gore’s 9th K (the 3rd from Juan Soto) ended the threat, 1-1 after five.
MacKenzie Gore’s Line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 Ks, 104 P, 58 S, 3/1 GO/FO.
Gore finished the night with 11 swinging strikes, nine of them on his fastball, and 16 called strikes, 10 with his fastball, in an impressive, and at-times dominant outing...
What was working and what were Gore’s thoughts on the outing overall?
“That was fun,” he said after the 8-3 win. “That’s cool. I think a little bit of everything. The fastball, obviously, was good. But I threw some sliders in there with strikeouts. So just solid.”
“Still were not the most efficient, but we put guys away when I didn’t do that last time, so good series win for us.”
His manager said he liked the emotional exchange with Soto after Gore struck him out for the third time for the final out of the Padres’ fifth.
“It was a big moment for him. I’m proud of him. He came out, he checked his emotions and kept us in the game,” Martinez said.
“I like him,” Gore said of his brief, respectful exchange with Soto. “He talks some junk. And he’s competitive. So, I’d never played against him much, but I liked him. So there was some of that going on, but it was friendly, it was all good.”
No biggie. He just struck the player he was traded for (as part of a package of five, highly-regarded prospects) three times in five innings, and with two on and two out in a 1-1 game the third time.
• For the second time in two days, Jeimer Candelario homered the first time up in Petco Park.
Last night, it was a 1-1 fastball the switch-hitting third baseman hit 395 feet to right-center in the Padres’ home.
This time, Candelario connected on a 2-0 fastball low in the zone from Seth Lugo, the one-time Mets’ pitcher, who gave up a 427-foot, two-out shot which put the Nationals up 1-0 in the series finale in San Diego. No. 10 of 2023.
Going into the game, Candelario was 11 for 33 (.333 AVG) with six doubles, a home run, three walks, three RBIs, and five runs scored, in his last nine games.
• It was a 1-1 game in the sixth, when Luis García led off with an opposite field single on a 1-1 fastball up in the zone from Lugo, and Candelario lined a 1-1 curve to right field to move the runner to third, before García scored on an RBI single to center by Joey Meneses, 2-1, and 3-1, on a sac fly by Stone Garrett. Meneses was thrown out trying to take second on the play, when Tatis, Jr.’s throw home was cut off, and a fly to right by Keibert Ruiz ended the inning.
Mason Thompson walked three in the Padres’ sixth, loading the bases with two out before his manager went to the pen again, for lefty Joe La Sorsa, who struck pinch hitter Gary Sanchez out with a 3-2 slider down and away to leave’em loaded and keep it 3-1 in the Nats’ favor after six.
Derek Hill (ROE) and CJ Abrams (HBP) scored in the top of the seventh, on an RBI single by Lane Thomas (Hill) and a two-run double by Candelario (Abrams & Thomas), 6-1, and then Joey Meneses drove in Luis García (who’d reached on an error) and Thomas to make it an 8-1 lead over the Padres after 6 1/2.
Right-handed hitters were 0 for 20 against Jordan Weems this season before Ha-Seong Kim hit a 97 MPH 2-2 fastball 380 feet to left for a solo home run in the first at-bat of the Padres’ seventh, 8-2.
Paolo Espino struggled in the ninth, giving up a double, walk, and RBI single before he was lifted in favor of Hunter Harvey with two on and two out in an 8-3 game. Harvey got out No. 3 on a fly to center field on which Stone Garrett and Derek Hill collided with Hill making the catch to end it.
Between Opening Day on March 30th and April 30th, Lane Thomas played 25 games (and had 107 plate appearances) in which he didn’t hit a single home run. He homered on May 1st, however, and he’s hit 12 more, for 13 total in 49 games, going into Sunday’s series finale in San Diego, CA, where he homered for one of the two runs the Nats’ scored in a 2-0 win on Saturday night.
In those 49 games, the 27-year-old right fielder went 62 for 198 (.313/.351/.606) with 15 doubles, the 13 homers, 10 walks, and 53 Ks.
Going into the third of three in Petco Park, Thomas had, “... a hit in 11 of his last 12 games, going 18 for 47 [.383 AVG] with six doubles, four home runs, eight RBI[s], one walk, one stolen base, and nine runs scored,” as the Nationals highlighted in their pregame notes.
Add to that the fact that Thomas, “... has recorded seven outfield assists, tied for the most among National League outfielders,” and before Sunday’s game, he ranked 9th in the big leagues in Defensive Runs Saved among right fielders (at -2 DRS), and the one-time Cards’ outfielder acquired in return for Jon Lester at the trade deadline in 2021, is putting together a season which is probably worthy of league-wide recognition of some sort, at least, that is, according to his manager.
The difference for Thomas now as opposed to the first month of the season?
“Confidence,” Martinez said on Saturday night. “He really has a lot of confidence up there. He’s getting ready to hit the fastball. I tell him — look, first at-bat today, they told him this guy threw a knuckle ball and he swung so late, and I gave him a sign, ‘Hit the fastball.’ And he went up next time and hit the fastball. But he’s a good fastball hitter, and when he’s ready to hit the fastball, he hits the ball hard.”
“I can’t say enough about Lane, and I keep saying this,” Martinez added at another point in his post game presser, “... if he keeps doing what he’s doing, to me he’s an All-Star.”