Williams, Gore sharp in final tuneups as Nats set rotation
WASHINGTON -- Manager Dave Martinez finalized his pitching rotation for the season-opening series against the Atlanta Braves following the Nationals’ 3-0 exhibition win over the New York Yankees at Nationals Park on Tuesday.
After veteran left-hander Patrick Corbin gets the ball Thursday on Opening Day, right-hander Josiah Gray will start Saturday’s second game and left-hander MacKenzie Gore will pitch the series finale Sunday.
Right-hander Trevor Williams will go to the mound in Monday’s series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Williams and Gore combined to toss 7 2/3 scoreless innings Tuesday, striking out five and allowing just two singles. Alex Call slammed a second-inning solo homer to left field, his first of the spring, and scored two runs. Gore struck out four and walked two.
"That's exactly what we wanted to see,” Martinez said. “Pound the strike zone. They were really good. With MacKenzie, he's got to trust his fastball a little bit more. I don't want him throwing a lot of breaking pitches. [His] fastball is live. Forget about the strikeouts. Strikeouts are going to happen. But when he throws his fastball like he does, and can throw it over the zone, it's a really good pitch."
Martinez said Corbin earned the opportunity for the Opening Day nod with a solid spring, striking out 15 and walking only two over 18 innings.
"He's a veteran guy, he's done it before,” Martinez said. “Towards the end of spring, he really threw the ball well. He really did. We had a lot of conversations [about] putting everything that has happened behind him, in the past, and let's move forward and let's start fresh. And he's done that. He looked really good.”
Williams started and allowed one hit with one strikeout, a hit-by-pitch and two walks over four innings. The former Pirates, Cubs and Mets hurler enjoyed pitching at Nationals Park for the home team. He threw an efficient 52 pitches to record 12 outs.
“To get four ups [and] have some clean innings was good,” Williams said. “It was nice to pitch in a big league atmosphere, big league stadium. It was a fun first day wearing a white jersey, white pants here. It took a minute to kind of look around the ballpark from a different angle today, and can't wait to get the regular season started."
The only base hit Williams allowed was a one-out single to Anthony Volpe in the third. The right-hander’s lone strikeout came against Aaron Judge on a slider low and away. But Williams wasn’t going to take credit for getting through the vaunted Yankees lineup unscathed.
"We had a good game plan going in,” Williams said. “Me and Keibert [Ruiz] were doing a great job rolling with it. At this point of Spring Training, the boxes that I am checking are, ‘Am I healthy after this outing and is my body ready to go nine innings for my first start?’ That's where we are at today, so that's what we are proud of."
Gore also pitched well, silencing the Yankees over the next 3 2/3 innings. Gore racked up 9 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings against New York over his last two spring outings.
"I felt good,” Gore said. “Different coming out of the ‘pen, but Trevor was great and [I] tried to build off of what he was doing. Weird day. A lot of travel lately. So we had to make sure we did what we needed to do today, both of us. I thought we did a great job, and now it's [time for] some real baseball."
Martinez said Gore built up his confidence as Spring Training progressed.
"He has made some really nice steps forward,” Martinez said pregame. “MacKenzie is a perfectionist. When things don't kind of go right, sometimes he gets down. But towards the end of spring, he kind of said, ‘I got to start to let go of some at-bats, let go of some pitches and stay in the moment.’ That's something that [pitching coach Jim] Hickey and I are going to have to watch periodically and talk to him about. But he's got electric stuff.”
Top prospects in action
Nationals top prospects James Wood and Elijah Green both made their exhibition debuts at Nats Park late in the game. Wood played right field, pinch-ran and struck out, and Green played center field and walked in his only plate appearance.