MacKenzie Gore is working on a lot of things in his first season with the Nationals. He’s only 24 years old and now only has 28 games of major league experience under his belt.
One thing the left-hander really wants to improve on is getting left-handed batters out.
“I should get left-handers out,” Gore said after yesterday’s 4-2 loss to the Phillies. “Left-handers don't like hitting left-handed pitching.”
So far in his young career, Gore is a reverse-splits pitcher. Coming into yesterday’s start, he had surrendered a .293/.429/.453 slash line with a .881 OPS and 1.23 strikeout-per-walk rate against left-handed batters. He had given up a slash line of .235/.312/.370 with a .683 OPS and 2.92 K/BB rate to righties.
Is he surprised that he had reverse splits?
“Well, yeah, I struggled against some left-handers,” he said. “I walked a lot of left-handers last year and kind of had the same thing. So yeah, it's kind of something I've had to deal with. We had seen enough of it, so I had to get better at it.”
He had to deal with some of the most dangerous left-handed hitters in the league yesterday in Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper, both of whom he actually had success against in small sample sizes last year when he was with the Padres.
The results were pretty good again Saturday: They both went 1-for-3 with a strikeout. Overall, Gore held Phillies lefties to 2-for-9 with four strikeouts over his six innings.
“It's nice when you have faced guys,” Gore said. “But they have also seen me. They're good hitters that can do some damage. You just try to keep the ball in the ballpark.”
“It was a lot better, a lot better,” manager Davey Martinez said of Gore’s approach against lefties. “They got some tough left-handed hitters there. I thought he threw the ball well. I thought he threw the ball well the whole game.”
Left-handers are still hitting .379 off him compared to just .220 by right-handers, but Gore is making the proper adjustments to find more success against lefty bats.
“Kept the ball down,” Martinez said. “His slider was really good. For the most part, when he was down, he was good.”
“It was pretty good. I've been better,” Gore said. “Still gave up some hits. … Better. So yeah, that's part of it.
Gore is still trying to get back to better while focusing on getting lefties out since the end of last year.
“I just know it was a thing,” he said. “It's not something I'm gonna ... I knew I was capable of getting them out. I just had to figure out how I was going to do that.”
The young pitcher has been known to be a perfectionist. He holds himself to a high standard. But the Nationals have said he’s best when he’s not trying to be too perfect.
So what does not being too perfect look like to a perfectionist?
“Just aggressive,” Gore said. “I want to be the best version of myself. I like executing pitches and doing what I'm supposed to do. But yeah, just being aggressive and going at guys. And we're doing an OK job with that. Just have been throwing some bad pitches that have been homers or just hits that really cost me the last however long it's been.”