Gore, Nats push through extracurriculars to rout Marlins (updated)

Frustrations are bound to boil over during the long baseball season. Either with one’s self or with a teammate, it’s a part of the game for every team.

Despite a shortage of wins over the last couple of years, there haven’t been too many incidents with the Nationals. At least not in the public eye.

The Nats have had even fewer reasons for one this year, as they entered tonight’s opener with the Marlins only four games under .500 and winners of five of their last six games.

But that doesn’t mean players aren’t intense in the moment. Some guys get into certain mindsets when it comes to game time and are completely different people off the field.

MacKenzie Gore is one of those players. Much like former Nationals ace Max Scherzer, Gore is very friendly in the clubhouse on days he’s not pitching. On days he does take the bump, however, don’t get in his way.

The self-proclaimed perfectionist often gets frustrated with himself – even during good outings – when he doesn’t execute his pitches. Rarely does he get upset with his teammates and have it spill over into the dugout, except for one notable incident last year with now ex-teammate Victor Robles.

That streak ended tonight with Gore getting upset with third baseman Nick Senzel, who ended up shoving the left-hander in the dugout. But the Nats pushed through the extracurriculars to beat the Marlins 8-1 and start this homestand with a victory.

“Today was about MacKenzie pitching his butt off," manager Davey Martinez said after the game. "The boys came out swinging today. We did everything right offensively. We needed that. Our bullpen has been beat up a little bit, so for him to give us seven innings like that, strong innings, it was great.”

In the second inning of a scoreless game, Gore surrendered a one-out single to Tim Anderson. He then hit Dane Myers to put two runners on and threw a wild pitch to put them both into scoring position. After a strikeout, Gore was one out away from getting out of the self-inflicted jam.

A ground ball by Nick Fortes seemed like it was going to be the one to end the frame. But the ball was hit far up the third base line and barely fielded by Senzel, whose throw across the diamond was just a tad late and allowed a run to score. The throw was also 5 mph slower than his season average, per Statcast.

Gore must have thought Senzel’s effort was lackadaisical because he put all of his frustration into three straight 97-plus mph fastballs to strike out Jazz Chisholm Jr. and then had words for his third baseman in the dugout. The two chirped back and forth before Senzel finally pushed Gore and the two had to be separated, with Lane Thomas in between them the whole time and Jesse Winker moving the left-hander away.

“I probably gotta do a better job of getting rid of it with a better throw," Senzel said, though not confirming that was the play at the root of the disagreement. "Maybe a little lackadaisical. So that one's on me.”

“All I'll tell you is, I don't know if you have any brothers, right? I mean, hey, I fought my brothers every day," Martinez said. "It's part of it when you're around each other a little bit. I love it. It's the competitive nature of them. And what they did after that was awesome. So the rest of it will stay in our circle.”

Thomas continued to defend his best friend as he and Winker escorted Gore down the tunnel to cool off away from the 23,303 fans in attendance and the TV cameras. Gore and Senzel hugged it out eventually to seemingly put the incident behind them.

“We've handled it in here," Gore said. "I think the biggest thing is that that was something that I can't do. But I'm gonna leave it at that. That's on me. But we figured it out. That was more something that can't happen. But we played a great game today and got a chance to win the series tomorrow.”

“You hope that it's private. Sometimes it can't be. It really can't," Martinez said. "So I sat back and watched. They'll work it out. Good teams usually work it out and I know these guys are close. I see them every day. So they worked it out and it was good.”

It was probably easy to forget about after Thomas delivered a go-ahead three-run home run in the third inning, sporting an Uncle Sam hat as the Nats' new homer celebration prop. The right fielder hit a first-pitch sinker from Marlins starter Shaun Anderson off the left field foul pole to jumpstart a big inning for the Nats.

“(Jacob Young) and CJ (Abrams) put me in some good situations to hit tonight," Thomas said. "I think I gotta take advantage of those when you have a chance to score those guys. That's what I tried to do. … Luckily, it hit that pole.”

Joey Meneses and Abrams each hit two-run singles to run the score up to 7-1 before the end of the third. The Nats’ seven runs matched their season high for runs in an inning with the fourth inning of the June 9 win over the Braves.

Winker then delivered an RBI single in the sixth for the eighth run of the night. Maybe the emotions from the second inning carried over positively into the rest of the game

“I think it kind of stays in house for us with that," Thomas said. "But they're just two competitive dudes. I think with good teams, that stuff happens. You got a lot of guys who compete and compete hard. It kind of fired me up. I don't know, I thought we had a good inning after that. So maybe we need a little more.”

The run support allowed Gore to calm down a bit and cruise through the rest of his outing. He was only charged with one run, five hits and one walk over seven innings. He also struck out 10 batters, the third time he’s fanned 10 or more this season. He even kept his cool while committing a throwing error to second base, patting himself on the chest to apologize to Luis García Jr.

“When you have a six-run lead or seven-run, it's a lot easier to pitch,” Gore said.

Gore recorded a career-high 25 swings and misses tonight. His previous high was 23 on May 28, 23 at the Royals. His 25 whiffs matched a season high among all major league pitchers, with the other being the Pirates’ Jared Jones on April 22 against the Brewers.

“Just trusting the game plan," he said. "I thought the stuff was good going in and we were to execute it at a high enough level. And we made pitches when we needed to.”

The Nationals are now winners of six of their last seven and are a perfect 5-0 against the Marlins, a team they struggled mightily to beat over the past couple of years.

Sometimes all you need is a little push.

“Absolutely," Martinez said. "Like I said, all of a sudden we cleared the air and here we go. The boys stepped up and we got some big runs, we had a big inning. So it was fun. Led by Lane. But I love the aggression. I love the way we went out there and played. Everything's good. Can't wait to play tomorrow and go 1-0.”

* Josiah Gray finished his second rehab start with four hits, one run, zero walks, a home run and a pick-off on 41 pitches, 27 for strikes, over four innings with Double-A Harrisburg. Martinez mentioned Gray felt so good that he threw 20 more pitches in the bullpen after he departed the game.

The right-hander had much better results than in is first rehab start on Sunday with Single-A Fredericksburg.

The Senators walked off the Bowie Baysox (Orioles) with an RBI double by J.T. Arruda in the 10th inning.

* Joey Gallo's MRI showed a significant strain of his left hamstring, per Martinez. The first baseman/designated hitter will be out for a while, according to the manager.

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