Gore, Nats unable to limit damage early vs. Phillies

July 2nd, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- In his first outing since setting a franchise record for the most consecutive strikeouts to start a game, once again appeared to be locked in out of the gate on Saturday afternoon.

The Nationals left-hander struck out the first two Phillies batters he faced on his way to an eight-pitch 1-2-3 opening inning at Citizens Bank Park.

That efficiency, however, would not last in what devolved into an ugly 19-4 loss that snapped Washington's three-game winning streak.

Gore's command issues started to rear their head in a shaky second inning, before reaching full bore in a disastrous third that he would not make it through. The 24-year-old southpaw was tagged for a season-high seven runs off six hits and three walks while lasting a season-low 2 2/3 innings. He departed with a small blister on his middle finger, though Gore said he wasn’t concerned about it moving forward.

“It’s always something I deal with, I’m fine,” Gore said. “That had nothing to do with what happened.”

Gore came out attacking, throwing seven of his eight pitches for strikes in the first. The only ball he threw came on an 0-2 slider to Kyle Schwarber in an attempt to get him to chase. But in the second, Gore allowed a leadoff double to Bryce Harper on a 94.2 mph fastball right down the middle. Two batters later, Gore got ahead of Josh Harrison only to plunk him with an 0-2 fastball.

Though Gore limited the damage to just one run in the second, he wouldn't be so lucky in a third inning that started with consecutive walks and also featured a mental lapse -- and too many pitches over the heart of the plate.

It began with back-to-back five-pitch walks to Schwarber and Trea Turner. The only strikes in those plate appearances were a pair of borderline pitches on which Gore got the benefit of the call.

The inning then quickly spiraled out of control.

With the bases loaded, Gore did not cover first base on a potential double-play ball that instead turned into an RBI fielder's choice for Harper.

“The biggest thing was not getting over [to cover first],” Gore said. “We talk about doing the little things right and that just can’t happen. Instead of getting two outs there, we only got one. … Sometimes you get hit, but not getting over, that just can’t happen.”

Three batters later, Gore got away with throwing back-to-back center-cut fastballs to Alec Bohm, only to have Bohm tee off anyway for a two-run homer on a pitch above the zone. Gore followed with a nine-pitch walk in which only one pitch was in the zone, then saw his day end when Cristian Pache roped an RBI double to make it 7-1.

“He got behind a few times and his location wasn’t what it was five days ago,” said manager Dave Martinez. “We talk about this all the time, when things start speeding up on him, he starts working a lot quicker. He’s got to learn how to keep his tempo.”

Things didn't get any better for the Nationals upon Gore's exit.

Amos Willingham allowed four runs off five hits (including two homers) in 1 1/3 innings. Joe La Sorsa gave up four runs off four hits while recording only one out. Thaddeus Ward served up four runs of his own off two hits and two walks.

Put it all together and the 19 runs allowed by the Nationals were the second most in any game since the club moved to D.C., trailing only a 24-8 loss to the Padres on July 16, 2021.

Perhaps the one bright spot for the Nats came courtesy of left-hander Jose A. Ferrer, the club’s No. 24 prospect per MLB Pipeline.

Making his MLB debut, the 23-year-old southpaw turned in a perfect sixth inning against a Phillies team that had scored 18 runs over the previous three frames. Ferrer struck out Brandon Marsh with a 97.5 mph fastball, retired Harper on a groundout, then struck out J.T. Realmuto on an 87.2 mph changeup.

“Ferrer came in for the first time and did really well, so that’s encouraging,” Martinez said. “Threw strikes, good changeup, had good movement on his fastball. So that was really good to see.”

Despite the ugly loss, the Nationals still have a chance to win their third straight series -- all on the road -- in Sunday’s series finale.

“We’ve got to forget about this one," Martinez said, "because we’ve been playing really well.”