MacKenzie Gore finally made his regular-season debut for the Nationals and showed them — and everyone else — why he was a key part of the Juan Soto trade, limiting the Braves to one run across 5 1/3 innings in Washington’s 4-1 victory over Atlanta on Sunday.
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. He gave up three in all, while walking four batters and striking out six to help the Nationals avoid a season-opening series sweep.
It was quite a contrast to the performance 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.
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 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.
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.
The first hit he allowed in 2023 was a single by Ozzie Albies in the fourth. That was followed by Travis d’Arnaud’s RBI single, but Gore struck out Marcell Ozuna to end the threat.
Gore got a standing ovation when he was removed with runners on the corners in the sixth. Hunter Harvey entered and got Albies to ground into a double play.
Kyle Finnegan threw a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save this season.
Nationals outfielder Corey Dickerson went on the 10-day IL with a strained left calf, and outfielder Stone Garrett was brought up from Triple-A Rochester.
The Braves head to St. Louis for a three-game series, with right-hander Charlie Morton pitching Monday against Cardinals right-hander Jake Woodford.
The Nationals open a three-game series Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays. Right-hander Trevor Williams makes his debut for Washington, while right-hander Drew Rasmussen pitches for Tampa Bay.
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