MacKenzie Gore retired the first ten batters he faced last night in the nation’s capital, then worked around the first hit he allowed with one out in the fourth, and set six more Boston Red Sox’ hitters down before a leadoff walk in the seventh (which he erased with a force at second in the next at-bat).
But a blister/cracked finger nail, on his left middle finger, drew manager Davey Martinez and the club’s trainer Paul Lessard to the mound, and Gore was lifted from the outing, after an 85-pitch effort in which he struck out seven and gave up just one hit and two walks, picking up 13 swinging strikes (spread pretty evenly over four pitches) and 14 called strikes (with 12 of them on his four-seam fastball) in a dominant outing in Nationals Park.
“That was frustrating,” Washington’s 24-year-old southpaw acknowledged, when asked how it felt to have an otherwise stellar outing end the way it did. “But that’s something that I deal with, so there’s no panic button or anything. But yeah, there was a lot of good tonight.”
The good included, as noted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman on X, (formerly known as Twitter), Gore throwing first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 21 batters he faced.
MacKenzie Gore, Dirty 85mph Curveball. pic.twitter.com/qodCOMBQ8H— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 16, 2023
“We got ahead of guys,” Gore added. “[Catcher] Keibert [Ruiz] was awesome. We turned a lot of double plays (2). And we hit some big homers (3),” in what ended up a 6-2 win in the Nationals’ home in which the starter received no decision.
Coming off a rough three-start stretch in which he put up a 6.19 ERA (and a 7.14 FIP) in 16 IP, the solid outing, Gore said, was a welcome change, with the work he’s put in paying off.
“There were a lot of good things,” he said.
“The pitch count was low. But I expect to do things well. We’ve been doing things the right way, and we finally got some results tonight, which was cool.”
What was different this time out?
an informational graphic pic.twitter.com/BRectIonlo— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 17, 2023
“I think just my delivery was good today. We were able to get it to the right spot, release-point-wise, and we were able to throw strikes,” Gore said.
“He was good because he attacked the strike zone,” manager Davey Martinez said after the four-run rally (powered by a three-run homer by Ruiz and Stone Garrett’s second home run of the game) in the home-half of the eighth lifted the home team to victory. “[Gore] was all over it today, he pounded the strike zone, his fastball, his changeup was good. He threw his slider when he needed to, his curveball when he needed to, but it was all about the fastball today. His fastball was in the zone, and like I said, he pounded the zone really well today, so that was awesome.”
When Martinez went to the mound and saw Gore’s finger though, he decided quickly it was not something the left-hander could pitch through.
“He split his nail a little bit, and it formed like a blister,” the skipper explained, “so I mean, we couldn’t do nothing about that, we had to get him out of the game.”
The issue was on, “the side of the nail on the middle finger,” Gore told reporters.
“It’s happened,” he said, “... just once it gets to that point where it’s ripped that much, you can’t really do anything. But it will be fine by the next start. But just sweating and the skin getting soft, it’s just something I always have to deal with.”
“It’s something that I’ve dealt with a lot, it will be fine.”
While he’s been up and down over the course of the season, Martinez said Gore’s start on Wednesday night was a perfect example of what the pitcher, acquired as one of five high-end prospects the club received in return for Juan Soto (and Josh Bell) at the 2022 trade deadline with the San Diego Padres, is capable of doing when at his best.
“I’ve said this all year long: His stuff is electric,” the sixth-year bench boss said. “He’s got to understand what he wants to do every fifth day, or whenever he goes out there. But when he has command of his fastball, and he pounds the zone, everything else works for him. But his stuff is really good. The key is not putting himself in situations where he’s walking guys and getting deep in counts, just finishing hitters off and trusting your defense.
“Today, that’s what he did, he said, ‘I’m going to throw strikes, trust my defense, and go out there and compete,’ and he was awesome.”