Gore keeps Reds at bay with career-high 10 K's

Rookie left-hander delivers 5 scoreless frames in 2nd straight win over Cincinnati

April 28th, 2022

CINCINNATI -- The Padres have a problem … a good problem if you ask manager Bob Melvin.

San Diego has one too many quality starting pitchers on the roster. Rookie left-hander MacKenzie Gore, who has stepped up in the absence of injured starters Blake Snell and Mike Clevinger, continued to strengthen his case to remain a rotation regular in the Padres’ 8-5 series-clinching victory over the Reds on Wednesday night at Great American Ball Park.

Gore, ranked as baseball's No. 85 prospect by MLB Pipeline, logged a career-high 10 strikeouts over five innings as he yielded just one run on five hits and two walks. He also navigated through several high-stress situations, working in and out of danger. He stranded six runners as the Reds’ lineup went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. He also put San Diego in position for a second three-game sweep of Cincinnati this season in Thursday’s matinee finale.

After a long, strung-out first inning, when the Reds loaded the bases and looked primed for a big frame, the former first-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft buckled down to exit unscathed. From there, Gore settled in and only grew stronger as the game progressed.

While Melvin knew the effectiveness of Gore’s four-seam fastball, it was the slider that caught his attention. Gore still threw his four-seam fastball the most -- 59% of the time, with a whiff rate of 32% -- but he mixed in his slider 14 times – with an even higher whiff rate of 36%, keeping hitters off-balance.

“I think that’s one of those things you feel out a little bit as the game goes along,” Melvin said. “His fastball’s been there, curve [ball] sometimes better than slider, today slider really good … He and [Austin Nola] did a good job identifying what was working.”

"[With the slider] we made another step in the right direction, which is what we wanted to do," Gore said. Threw some good ones tonight, so overall I thought the stuff was pretty good."

Gore believes finishing off hitters in fewer pitches and cutting down on his misses are the next steps that he needs to take as a big league pitcher.

“The stuff was good, but there was definitely some things that could be cleaned up so we can get deeper into games,” Gore said. “That’s kind of the next step.”

“He’s putting them away, just maybe not in the last couple games as quickly as he would like,” Melvin said of Gore’s rising pitch count. “It’s not something you think about a whole lot, so I think maybe that comes with some maturity. I think he’s just trying to go out there and string together good outings, and he’s definitely done that.”

Gore has given Melvin plenty to think about in the coming weeks while the others return from injuries. Clevinger, who’s posted double-digit wins in three seasons, could be nearing a return in the coming week, while Snell, a former American League Cy Young Award winner, is just a couple weeks away himself. The other pitchers in the current rotation are Yu Darvish, Sean Manaea, Joe Musgrove and Nick Martinez.

Since his Major League debut on April 15 against the Braves, Gore has pitched to a 1.76 ERA through 15 1/3 innings to go with 20 strikeouts across his three outings. He also beat the Reds for a second straight start, as he went five scoreless frames with seven strikeouts in the Padres’ 6-0 victory at home on April 20.

In just a small sample, Melvin has seen Gore learn how to monitor the effectiveness of each one of his pitches mid-game.

"I think [Gore] is starting to be aware of what's working for him during the course of the game," Melvin said before the game. "I think at this point in time, he's been a little bit unpredictable, which has worked in his favor.”

Postgame, Melvin praised Gore's ability to maintain his impressive velocity -- which sat in the mid-90s all night -- towards the end of his outing, while his pitch count rose above 100 pitches.

“That’s the one thing you look for … [Gore was] throwing that many pitches, yet he still held his velocity the entire time,” Melvin said. “Something we really try to monitor once you get your pitch count up around 85 or 90 is if you're holding your velo, and he certainly did that.”