More Gore! 10 K's over 6 scoreless frames

June 5th, 2022

MILWAUKEE -- MacKenzie Gore, the third overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, was one of the most sought-after prospects in recent years. But after struggling for much of last year in the Padres’ Minor League system, the left-hander was determined to fight through that adversity. 

And now that he made his way to the Major Leagues, he’s everything that the club hoped for. 

With Gore’s six scoreless innings -- he allowed just three hits and three walks while tying his career high with 10 strikeouts -- the Padres cruised to a 4-0 victory against the Brewers on Saturday afternoon at American Family Field.

“I felt good,” Gore said. “I thought I got better as the game went along. Another win, so it’s good.” 

The dominant performance reduced Gore’s ERA to 1.50 across 48 innings with 57 strikeouts in eight starts and one relief appearance. His early rookie success has not only helped San Diego reach a 3.35 team ERA -- fifth-best in MLB -- but it also puts him in some rare company. 

Gore is just the third pitcher since 1913 -- joining Tanner Houck (2020-2021) and Cy Blanton (1934-1935) -- to record at least 50 strikeouts and to allow fewer than 10 runs through his first nine career starts.

Gore’s 1.60 ERA through eight career starts -- not counting his scoreless relief appearance on May 17 -- is also the fifth-lowest for a rookie with at least 40 innings pitched, since 1994. 

“I’m running out of superlatives,” manager Bob Melvin said. “What else can you say? He’s getting better every time out there, just fantastic.”

Gore continues to thrive. Over his past two starts, the rookie has given up just five hits and no runs with 19 strikeouts. His six shutout innings on Saturday extended his scoreless streak to 15, dating back to his outing on May 22 against the Giants.

“Just being around good players will make you better,” Gore said. “And that’s what it’s all about. There’s a lot of really good players, not just pitchers, in this clubhouse, and it makes everybody better.”

Gore’s Major League debut was a moment that the Padres waited five years for. The lefty had an impressive 2019 season at two Minor League levels, going a combined 9-2 with a 1.69 ERA in 20 starts with 135 strikeouts. Then game 2020, a canceled season amid the COVID-19 pandemic and sudden struggles with his fastball command at the Padres’ alternate training site.

Those issues carried over when Minor League play resumed in 2021. While touching four different teams -- Rookie ball, High-A, Double-A and Triple-A -- Gore no longer looked like a top prospect. In Triple-A El Paso, Gore had a 5.85 ERA through six starts. He finished the 2021 Minor League season with a combined 3.93 ERA in 12 starts.

“He had to go through some tough times,” Melvin said. “Sometimes, that’s good for you. You find yourself again; you have to fight through it.”

Gore, once a Top 5 overall prospect in the MLB Pipeline rankings, plummeted all the way down to No. 86 before this season. But that experience made him stronger. 

“It’s helped a ton,” Gore said. “It helps everybody when you can go through something -- adversity -- if you can get through it.” 

Despite Gore’s rough 2021 season, Melvin knew that the lefty still had a bright future ahead; the manager saw that from his first glimpse in Spring Training. In Gore’s two spring starts -- he made two relief appearances, as well -- the southpaw threw a combined five innings, giving up just one hit with seven strikeouts. 

“Spring Training is when he kind of showed up with different stuff -- and stuff that he was drafted with,” Melvin said. “From Spring Training to this point, it’s been a lot of the same stuff.” 

Now Gore is a big part of the Padres’ rotation.

“He really hasn’t had a tough outing yet,” Melvin said as he knocked on wood.