WASHINGTON (AP) — MacKenzie Gore kept waiting for this day to arrive. So, too, did the Washington Nationals — and their fans.
Gore arrived as a key part of the Juan Soto trade in August, while he was injured. But the 24-year-old lefty’s debut for his new club showed why Washington wanted him.
Gore struck out six and limited the big-swinging Braves to one run and three hits across 5 1/3 innings Sunday, helping Washington beat Atlanta 4-1 on Sunday.
“It’s been a long time. … I’ve been looking forward to it,” said Gore, who said his parents, sister, brother-in-law and other relatives, along with his high school coach, were at Nationals Park. “I’ve been here for a little bit and it was fun to finally pitch.”
When manager Dave Martinez took him out, many in the announced crowd of 21,440 saluted Gore with a standing ovation.
“Yeah, that was cool,” Gore said, while the team’s clubhouse manager reached into his locker to drop off a ball from the game encased in a clear box. “That usually means you pitched all right.”
Gore (1-0), a 24-year-old left-hander who was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft, didn’t allow a hit until there were two outs in the fourth, helping Washington avoid a season-opening sweep.
“It wasn’t necessarily about me,” he said. “It was: We need to figure out how to win. We’re capable of beating this team, like we showed today.”
His performance was quite a contrast to the showing by the other young lefty in this matchup, Braves starter Jared Shuster, a first-round pick in the 2020 draft who made his major league debut Sunday.
How did that go? Let’s just say his ERA was 36.00 after the first inning, which was quite a bit lower than the 108.00 it was a few minutes earlier.
“Not the start he wanted,” catcher Sean Murphy said. “Not the one we pictured.”
Facing a Washington lineup that had produced a total of three runs across 18 innings while dropping the first two games of the season, Shuster (0-1) gave up that many before recording an out Sunday. The first six batters reached safely — three via singles and three via walks, including two free passes with the bases loaded.
In all, the Nationals batted around, taking a 4-0 lead they never added to — Shuster got over the nerves he felt early and lasted 4 2/3 innings — but didn’t need to, either, thanks to Gore.
With a fastball in the 95-96 mph range, and an effective slider and curveball, Gore silenced the Braves, who scored seven runs in each of the first two games of the series.
“He was kind of effectively wild, I would probably say,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Gore was exceptional early last year for the San Diego Padres, going 4-1 with a 1.50 ERA in his first nine appearances. He was 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA when he went on the injured list in July with left elbow inflammation, shortly before being sent to Washington by the Padres in the swap that sent Soto and Josh Bell to San Diego. That injury sidelined Gore for the rest of 2022.
“He’s got electric stuff,” Martinez said. “He went out there and attacked, attacked, attacked. It was awesome.”
Nationals: OF Corey Dickerson went on the 10-day IL with a strained left calf, and OF Stone Garrett was brought up from Triple-A Rochester.
Braves: Head to St. Louis for a three-game series, with RHP Charlie Morton pitching Monday against Cardinals RHP Jake Woodford.
Nationals: Open a three-game series Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays. RHP Trevor Williams makes his debut for Washington, while RHP Drew Rasmussen pitches for Tampa Bay.
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