'Pretty sweet' first outing as Gore keeps Nats in hunt

Lefty logs 5 1/3 strong frames with 6 punchouts, but Bucs rally late to spoil home opener

April 2nd, 2024

WASHINGTON -- As the players dashed onto the field from the red carpet at the top of the dugout steps and celebratory fireworks sparkled in the afternoon sky, the Jumbotron showed a locked-in sitting in the bullpen.

With a sellout crowd of 40,405 converging at Nationals Park for the home opener, Gore was blocking out the buzz around him to focus on his season debut just minutes away.

Four days after Josiah Gray took the mound in the 2024 opener in Cincinnati, Gore was selected to start the season’s first game in Washington, D.C. The recognition of the young pair represented the next chapter of the Nats’ pitching staff, and Gore was eager to be part of it.

“I’ll be excited. I’ll have adrenaline,” the 25-year-old Gore said in anticipation on Sunday. “I’m not making it a huge deal, but there will be more adrenaline for the home opener. Everybody will have it.”

Gore immediately got into game mode. He hurled a 97.3 mph fastball on his first pitch, and he reached 98.6 mph in the at-bat with Connor Joe that resulted in a popout. The southpaw averaged 97.0 mph with his four-seamer, up two ticks from last season.

“I was excited,” Gore said following the Nationals’ 8-4 loss to the Pirates. “Adrenaline’s a good thing if you use it the right way. I’m not going to say I necessarily did that the best way, but I was excited and it was a lot of fun.”

Gore made his first regular season appearance since Sept. 8, after he was shut down with a blister. He allowed three runs on five hits and two walks while recording six strikeouts across 5 1/3 innings. Gore delivered 62 of his 101 pitches for strikes.

“He’s got four electric pitches, and he can use them in any count,” catcher Riley Adams said. “I think that’s what makes him so effective; he’s always got a swing-and-miss ability in there. Today, I think some of the pitches, he was just a little missing on a couple of them and he was still able to get his outs, get his punchouts, keep us in it.

“To give us 5 1/3, I think is pretty darn cool, and 100 pitches right there for his first outing right there was pretty sweet. Still seeing those upper nines in that sixth inning was awesome.”

Secondary pitches were an emphasis for Gore in Spring Training. He leaned on his fastball for nearly half of his pitches while mixing in his slider (18 percent), changeup (17 percent) and curveball (17 percent).

“The fact that he went out there and used it was awesome,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He made some pretty good pitches with that changeup and his breaking ball. We know he’s got a good fastball, but when he can start doing that, it gets the hitters off-balance. [When he] throws the ball over the plate, he’s going to be really effective.

“It was a good first start for him, it really was. Let’s build off of that with him.”

The opposing skipper agreed.

"Gore is good,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “He has good stuff. We were able to get his pitch count up a little bit and then we got after their bullpen. But that’s a good big league starter there.”

Gore isn’t one to seek out the spotlight. But the significance of being tabbed to start the Nationals’ home opener resonated with him, and he will carry it into this season.

“Keep trending in the right direction,” Gore said. “I think stuff’s better than it was a year ago. I’ve just got to execute it a little better going forward. But I like where we’re going, and I’m looking forward to it.”