MACKENZIE GORE’S 2023 SEASON IN THE BOOKS?:
MacKenzie Gore’s 2023 campaign effectively ended with the announcement on Saturday that he was going on the 15-Day IL with left finger blisters, which led to an abbreviated 4-inning outing on Friday night in the nation’s capital.
“I couldn’t send him back out,” manager Davey Martinez explained, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after an 8-5 loss in the series opener with the Los Angeles Dodgers. “He had a blister again, same finger. It bubbled up on him. So I just said that’s it. We’ll have to look at that tomorrow and see where we’re at.”
Gore went on the IL in advance of the second of three with LA in D.C., and Martinez did not say the 24-year-old southpaw’s season was over, but suggested as much given the timing.
“We’ll keep an eye on him, but he’s got a blister on top of a blister,” Martinez said in his talk with reporters on Saturday afternoon.
“But at this point in time, I would probably say I’d hate to start him up again. We’re getting close to the innings — honestly, we’re beyond the innings we thought we’d get.
“But right now, I’m not going to rule anything out. Just give me a few days and I want to sit down and have a conversation with him. But I think he’ll be shut down.”
Gore, acquired as one of the five high-end prospects included in the trade which sent both Juan Soto and Josh Bell to San Diego at the 2022 trade deadline, was injured at the time of the deal, though he pitched in the minors in his first season in the Nationals’ organization, without a return to the majors after he’d debuted with the Padres earlier in the year.
Assuming he is done for the year, Gore will finish his first full season in a Nationals uniform with a 4.42 ERA, a 4.90 FIP, 57 walks (3.76 BB/9), 151 Ks (9.97 K/9), and a .258/.331/.459 line against over 27 starts and 136 1⁄3 IP, up from the 87 total he threw between the minors and majors in 2022. His manager said he saw significant improvement from the 2017 1st Round pick.
Martinez said in thinking about what Gore accomplished this season and what he’ll have to work on going forward, he said it’s all about consistency.
“When I talk to him, it’s all going to be about consistency,” he said. “When he’s good, he’s good. And we talk about that all the time. His stuff is always electric.
“We’ve got to get him to understand how to use his stuff, how to attack hitters a little better, being around the zone. His misses got to be more around the zone. But overall, I think he’s matured from the beginning of the year to now tremendously. He really has. I remember battling with him, with his emotions out on the field, high-leverage situations, giving up a hit, he just gets all rattled. And he was able to calm that down towards the end here and kept us in ballgames.
“When everybody thought he wasn’t going to get through it, he got out and got into the next inning, or got between the inning and pitched really well.”
Martinez said he still thinks there’s room for growth in Gore’s already impressive game.
“I told him before: You’re a future All-Star, if you want to be,’” Martinez said.
“Physically, he’s great. The mental game is what he’s really working on a lot, and he’s done really well with that.”
The manager did field a question about what Gore’s absence means for the starting rotation down the stretch, but he wasn’t ready to announce anything or name a replacement for the spot next time around.
”We’ll see,” he said. “I’m going to sit down with [GM Mike Rizzo] and [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey and go over the game plan in the next couple days, see where we’re at, so we got — like I said before, we got to keep an eye on Jake [Irvin], I want to watch Josiah [Gray], you know, so and [Joan] Adon, who’s — he just takes the ball whenever, but he’s still a young guy so we want to keep an eye on him as well, but he’s thrown the ball a lot better for me since we had him last year, and every time he’s come up it seems like he seems like he’s gained a lot more confidence, so that’s a good thing.”
SPEAKING OF INJURIES AND OPPORTUNITIES:
Anyone watching Riley Adams react to discomfort in his hand/wrist after a swing in a pinch hit at-bat this past Thursday likely feared a hamate bone injury, and the club confirmed that it was a season-ending injury for the 27-year-old catcher on Friday afternoon, when he went on the 10-Day IL with, “a broken left hamate bone (retroactive to Sept. 7).”
Adams played in 44 games and got 158 plate appearances backing up for Keibert Ruiz, with a .273/.331/.476 line, 13 doubles, two triples, and four home runs on the year, while posting a .994 fld%, and 22% CS (throwing out 9 of 41 would-be base-stealers) behind the plate as a part-time catcher in D.C.
“It’s a shame,” Davey Martinez said of Adams’ injury. “But those things happen as we all know, but he did really well. I was talking to him earlier and I told him I was proud of him. He had an unbelievable season. For what he does, he was engaged every day. He got better, his hitting got better, and I think it’s going to continue to get better. He had a lot of confidence. Every day he played, every day he had success, he built more and more confidence, so he’s going to be really good, and like I said, I’m proud of the way he goes about his business, I’m proud of the way he worked the pitching staff, held those guys together, held them accountable, all that stuff. That’s the sign of a good catcher and also the sign of quiet leader. He stepped up to be that guy and I love having him around.”
Davey Martinez on his message for young players about contributing something every day:
“My biggest thing as I alway tell those [guys], ‘If you can do one thing a game to help your team win, then to me you had a successful day.’ If we can get 26 guys to do one thing every day, we’re win a lot of games. And I want you to understand you don’t have to go 4 for 4 to have a great a day. Whether it’s a walk, whether it’s turning a double play, getting a successful bunt down. Whatever it may be, if you can do something to help our team win, that’s awesome, and do it consistently and you’re going to play here for a long time.”
QUICK RAIN-DELAYED, EXTRA-INNING GAME RECAP:
Four hours and 10 minutes after the game was originally scheduled to start the Nationals and Dodgers started the second of three this weekend in D.C.
Go! — CJ Abrams tripled and scored for an early run in the bottom of the first, after the LA Dodgers scored an early run with David Peralta singling to start the game, taking third base in the next at-bat, when Freddie Freeman doubled, and scoring on a sac fly by Max Muncy, 1-1.
Ildemaro Vargas took the first walk of the game from Dodgers’ starter Bobby Miller, stole his way into scoring position in the next at-bat, took third on an error on the play, and scored to put the home team ahead when Luis García hit an RBI single, 2-1, then Abrams singled, Lane Thomas reached via HBP, and Dom Smith brought García in with a sac fly, 3-1 after five.
Jake Irvin gave the Nationals six innings and 88 pitches, 54 of them strikes, giving up just a run on three hits and two walks, while striking out 4 of 22 batters he faced. Irvin got a total of eight swinging strikes from Dodgers’ hitters, but collected 17 called strikes on the night.
POST: Davey Martinez on ending Irvin’s outing where he did instead of sending him back out for the seventh at 88 pitches - “We talked to him. He looked at me when I talked to him, and he was like ... and I said, ‘Hey, six and 90, man, that’s perfect. I could send you out there for another hitter or two, and he looked at me again, and he goes, ‘Man, that was tiring.’ I said, ‘Yeah, September is hot. You gave us six strong innings, we’ll do it from here.”
The Dodgers scored a run in the top of the seventh, but Abrams walked with two out in the home-half of the frame, and Lane Thomas homered to put the Nats up by three, 5-2.
Jacob Young and Jake Alu made great leaping catchers at the wall to rob Dodgers’ hitters of extra bases in the sixth and eighth innings, and Alex Call added a ridiculous diving catch in the ninth for more impressive defensive work.
POST: “It pumped everybody up,” Davey Martinez said of Young’s catch. “And then Jake Alu makes a play on the wall like that, then our second basemen make a couple nice plays. Man, it pumps everybody up, it definitely pumps the pitchers up. That’s why I always say it’s okay to let these guys hit the ball, get ahead, I mean, let the defense play. We played well, and we played really good defense.”
Max Muncy hit a two-run shot off Hunter Harvey in the eighth, 5-4, but Harvey got out of the inning. Kyle Finnegan came on for the ninth, but gave up a one-out walk to James Outman, who stole second, took third on a throwing error on Keibert Ruiz, and scored on an RBI hit Kolten Wong, 5-5, but with two on and two out, Luis García made a dazzling, sliding play to get Will Smith for out No. 3.
It went to extras (after the Nationals failed to take advantage of a bases-loaded, one-out opportunity in the bottom of the ninth), and the Dodgers drove the free runner, 6-5, but Keibert Ruiz drove in the Nats’ free runner, 6-6, and the game ended with Michael Chavis sprinting home from third in the bottom of the 11th on a walk-off wild pitch. Rubber match today...
OVERRRRRRRRRRRRRRR AND ̶O̶U̶T̶ pic.twitter.com/WTx6fPoqFV— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 10, 2023
“Man, I’ll tell you what, our outfield defense, tremendous,” manager Davey Martinez said once the game ended 7 hours and 25 minutes after it was originally scheduled to begin.
“Luis, unbelievable play, Chavis, unbelievable play at second. The defense was outstanding. Guys come in, the biggest thing is throwing strikes, man. We just keep walking and beating ourselves up, you know?”
“All in all, from where the day started, to come out with a victory was awesome. And these guys, they fought back. They fought back.”