“Perfectionist” Gore still not satisfied with latest start

JUPITER, Fla. — Speaking about MacKenzie Gore this morning, Davey Martinez called his starting pitcher a “perfectionist.”

That was easy to see after Gore emerged a bit disappointed with the results from his last start on Thursday. He wasn’t as perceptive as he would have liked.

It was even more evident after Gore finished what he considered his second underwhelming performance.

Gore threw 34 pitches and 23 strikes in two innings against the Marlins last week. Today he faced the same squad to start a 5-3 win in front of 2,271 fans in Jupiter. He went through three innings on 35 pitches and 23 strikes.

The sharpness wasn’t there from the start, which bothered the left-hander. Gore faced Jon Berti to start the bottom of the first and threw four pitches outside the batting zone to start his outing with a four-pitch walk.

“Yeah, that’s beautiful,” Gore said sarcastically of the starting path in front of the guest’s clubhouse at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

“We got through three and 35 pitches, which is good. But we have a lot to do.”

While Gore was hard on himself, the Nationals defense didn’t really help him either. CJ Abrams, who naturally joined Gore when he came to Washington as part of the Blockbuster deal with Juan Soto, dropped a perfect double cue ball on the next pitch to leave two runners on base.

Then back-to-back RBI singles led the Marlins 2-1 before the first out was finally recorded when Lane tossed Thomas Soler into third with another great throw from right field.

Abrams bobbled another potential double-play grounder, but this one wasn’t a mistake and wasn’t as costly. Though it seemed like a lot more with all that contact, Gore came out of the first inning with 13 pitches and seven strikes.

“His fastball wasn’t sharp today,” Martinez said after the game. “We talked a little bit about it. So we’re going to do some mechanical work with him. He just flies openly on his fastball. I think he’s just trying to do too much. His breaking balls were really good. So let’s get him back on track here. You saw it, I mean he totally bends. We have to get him to understand, to come down a bit and know that he’s going to be okay.

“Everything has to get a little bit better,” Gore said. “I thought we threw a couple of good pitches between counts. But with two strikes, we’re not making very good pitches right now, which is okay. But that’s kind of where we are.”

The efficiency finally showed in the next two frames of gore. After Gore gave up a single and a stolen base to Jesús Sánchez, Gore got a groundout, strikeout and popout to end a scoreless second. He then only needed four pitches, all strikes, for a perfect third.

Despite being close to his goal before the game, Gore’s outing was over. But he got some more work in the Nats’ bullpen before finally ending his day, throwing 15 more pitches to get to 50 after his fourth up-down.

Gore wanted to throw his interplay more today and he was able to do so successfully. After failing to throw everything on his last start, he threw six changeups, five of which landed for strikes.

“Once he’s thrown his fastball like his change and he’s done, everything lines up and the balls stay in the middle of the plate where we want him,” Martinez said. “And that’s just a small adjustment.”

Despite this, the perfectionist at Gore was still frustrated by the things that didn’t go right.

“I’ll try to stay positive,” he said. “But yeah, I got up three times, I threw fewer pitches today than the other day I think. … Yes, I think that was a step. Even warming up in the third, I felt like I was picking up a bit, which is good. So yeah, there are a lot of good things. Thirty-five pitches in three innings is good. But yeah I’m sure I’ll break it down and find something to get better at.

Offensively, the Nats actually jumped the board first, with Abrams taking the lead.

The young shortstop started the game with a first-pitch single down the middle. He then made a good jump and went from first to third on Thomas’ grounder on the left side of the infield, hitting the throw back to third to show off his speed. Abrams scored on Corey Dickerson’s RBI single with a great opening sequence.

“It’s something you really don’t teach. It’s just a reaction,” Martinez said of Abrams’ first through third heats. “Once you stop and hesitate, you’re done. So he did the right thing, he put his head down and went off and got us a run.

The Nats reclaimed the lead with some situational hits in the sixth off from Bryan Hoeing. Thomas led with a single and then moved up to third when Hoeing made a faulty pickoff attempt that rolled all the way to the Nats’ bullpen in the right corner of field. Dominic Smith walked and Corey Dickerson hit a right on Luis García’s RBI single. Then García was caught stealing, but Smith scored Ildemaro Vargas’ groundout to make it 4-2.

Travis Blakenhorn hit a sack fly in the ninth inning to hit minor league player Jeremy De La Rosa. His colleague Armando Cruz was hit in the leg by a pitch in the same frame but stayed in the game.

An unearned error was scored by Carl Edwards Jr. in eighth court thanks to a throwing error by third baseman Leonel Valera. But the right-hander hit his second strong inning in a row against the Marlins after a tough game against the Mets last week. Alex Colomé, Erasmo Ramirez, Wily Peralta, Kyle Finnegan and Jordan Weems threw scoreless innings from the bullpen.

The Nationals are now 4-5-1 in the Grapefruit League.


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