'It's beautiful': Gore matches career-high 11 strikeouts in dominant outing

April 14th, 2024

OAKLAND -- Southpaw wasn’t keeping count or chasing career marks. But by the time he fanned the final five batters of the afternoon and tied his career best of 11 strikeouts, there was no doubt he had been in a dominating rhythm.

“I knew I was missing bats,” Gore said after the Nationals’ 3-1 win over the Athletics at Oakland Coliseum. “I knew we were locating well.”

Gore, 25, was in control across five scoreless innings in his third start of the season (2-0, 2.81 ERA). He allowed one walk and four hits -- all singles -- in a memorable outing. Gore became one of eight Major League pitchers to record at least 11 strikeouts in a game this season.

The Nationals capped Gore’s day at 90 pitches as part of the team's long-term plan to moderate his workload so they don’t have to limit innings later in the season.

“It’s beautiful,” said manager Dave Martinez. “He goes out there and he attacks the strike zone.”

Gore stifled the A’s with a pitch mix of 58 percent four-seam fastballs that peaked at 97.8 mph and averaged 96.3 mph. The left-hander tied his career high of 12 whiffs with his fastball, specifically, and generated 20 total whiffs, in general, just shy of his career high (23 on May 28, 2023).

“Gore was pretty nasty today, 11 strikeouts,” said Athletics manager Mark Kotsay. “His fastball, we call it ‘easy cheese,’ but it’s effortless. It’s 97 [mph]. He keeps it in on righties. The breaking ball was good. We only got one walk. We did a good job getting him out in five. But the moral of the story is, we need to hit better and score more runs, because the margin for error is minimal right now.”

Establishing his fastball to both sides of the plate early allowed Gore and catcher Riley Adams to effectively use his secondary pitches, too. Gore worked in 21 curveballs (four whiffs), 10 sliders (two whiffs) and seven changeups (two whiffs).

“Then they have to really kind of be aware of the fastball, and it just makes those pitches that aren’t as hard look a lot better,” Gore said of his secondaries. “I’ve been throwing the ball hard and locating it well, that opens up everything else.”

Adams, who was behind the plate with Keibert Ruiz (flu) sidelined for the fourth consecutive game, had a firsthand look at Gore’s skilled maneuvering of his repertoire.

“He’s got so many electric pitches,” said Adams. “He wears the PitchCom, too, sometimes, and I love in situations when we get to two strikes and he doesn’t even give me a second to give my opinion and he just goes right to what he wants. I swear, most of the time, I’m right there with him on what we’re thinking. It just gives me more confidence because I feel like he’s got confidence in whatever he wants to throw.”

The Nationals are seeing the potential they believed in when they acquired Gore -- the third overall pick in the 2017 Draft -- as a key piece of the Juan Soto blockbuster deal with the Padres in '22. Gore, who started the Nats’ '24 home opener, is an anchor of the rotation. The next step for him is becoming more efficient and being able to consistently throw six innings.

“I think the crazy part is, I still think there’s more in there,” said Adams. “I think there’s more than what we saw today, and it makes it all really exciting. I can’t wait for his next outing.”