MacKenzie Gore’s Turn:
“He had a good outing his last outing,” Davey Martinez said before MacKenzie Gore took on the Philadelphia Phillies Saturday afternoon in the nation’s capital, pointing to Gore’s seven-inning, 11-strikeout performance against Kansas City in the Royals’ home.
“Let’s continue to do that,” the Nationals’ manager said.
“Consistency. He’s got to keep the ball down. We always talk about him throwing strikes, keeping the ball down.
“When he does that, he’s really good, and everything plays off the ball being down for him.”
There was some concern going into the outing, which saw Gore taking on a club with some tough lefties in the lineup, especially considering the southpaw’s reverse splits 11 starts into his second season in the majors.
“They’re very good hitters, and the left-handers are really good, so it’s about making your pitches,” Martinez said, “and not trying to do too much because you’re facing who you’re facing, just get to the next pitch and just focus on just making a good pitch every pitch.”
Gore started the day with a .408/.532/.653 line against lefties in 63 plate appearances vs. a .201/.265/.331 line against righties, which, considering he’d put up a .193/.338/.281 line vs. left-handers in 16 starts last season, and a .263/.349/.402 line vs righties in his first outings in the majors, was somewhat surprising.
“We’ve really been surprised, because his stuff is so electric,” Martinez said, “but the biggest thing, like I said, is working ahead, getting ahead, staying ahead.”
In six innings on the mound, in what ended up a 4-2 loss for Washington at home in D.C., Gore gave up three runs on nine hits, striking out six. He gave up an RBI single to left field by Josh Harrison in the second, an RBI double by Trea Turner in the third, and a solo home run by J.T. Realmuto in the sixth, on a fastball not quite in enough Realmuto sent 407 ft. to left-center field in Nationals Park.
The Phillies’ lefties were a combined 3 for 12 with a double (by Bryce Harper).
“I thought MacKenzie threw the ball well. Made a couple of mistakes, but other than that he was around the zone all day and gave us a good six innings. Just the bats were stale today,” Martinez said after the Phils evened things up in the three-game set.
And his at-bats against the Phillies’ lefties?
“A lot better. Lot better,” Martinez said. “They got some tough left-handed hitters there. I thought he threw the ball well. I thought he threw the ball well the whole game, but like I said, a couple two-strike mistakes, and then the home run, obviously, to Realmuto it was a 2-1 count, but overall he did well.”
“It was okay,” Gore said of his outing, which left him with a 3.66 ERA on the year.
“I made some mistakes that really cost us. All the runs were just pitches that were not executed. So, frustrating when it comes to that, but we were able to get through six, so.”
“It was pretty good,” Gore said of his battles with the Phils’ lefties. “I’ve been better. Still gave up some hits, I know there was a Schwarber hit ... I don’t exactly what the numbers were...”
“Just [three] hits,” a reporter noted.
“Okay, so better, better. But yeah, that’s part of it. I should get left-handers out. Left-handers don’t like hitting left-handed pitchers.”
Were his struggles against lefties a focus for Gore and the Nationals’ coaches?
“I just knew it was a thing, it’s not something I’m going to — I knew I was capable of getting them out, I just had to figure out how I was going to do that,” he said.
As he explained it, he did have some issues with lefties last year too, though the numbers were not as dramatic.
“I struggled against some left-handers, I walked a lot of left-handers last year, and kind of had the same thing. So yeah, it was kind of something I had to deal with, and I just — we had seen enough of it, so I had to get better at it.”
BACK PAGE - Kyle Finnegan Wanted The Ball:
Kyle Finnegan retired two batters on 13 pitches in the eighth inning on Friday night, but with the Nationals holding on to a slim, one-run lead, 8-7, the reliever told his manager he’d go to the mound again.
“I honestly didn’t want to put him back out there for the ninth,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters in his post game press conference after the win in the series opener.
“He was adamant about going back out,” Martinez explained.
“We took [Hunter] Harvey out because he pitched a lot a couple days ago like that, and I didn’t want to send [Finnegan] back out there, but he wanted the ball.”
Martinez said it’s nothing Finnegan hasn’t said before, but this time he believed his closer meant it.
“There’s some days we have conversations and he’s not so sure, and I know, ‘Hey, he’s out,’ and today he was not giving in about going back out there, and it was beautiful. And like I said, he went out there and he picked up his teammates. I saw the energy they had in that last inning just trying to get those three outs, and he did a great job.”
How is he able to gauge the right and wrong time to listen to his players, who nine out of ten times, will say they are good to go?
“I can see it,” he said. “I could see it in his face. A big thing for me was getting him back out there because of what happened in LA with the pitch count violation and the stolen base and that stuff, he was really down after that game, so I wanted to get him out there. When he comes up to me like that and he’s adamant about [it], I thought it would be a good moment for him. It worked out well. If it wouldn’t have worked out well then it would have been a different conversation, but the fact that he wanted to be out there, and he wanted to be out there for his teammates, and it was awesome. So we just said, ‘Hey, let him go. If something happens then we’ll have [Andrés] Machado ready, but let him go and see what he does.’ And he manned up and he got us some big outs.”