With injuries limiting his time on the field in 2018, MacKenzie Gore had trouble staying consistent on the mound. But if his first outing of 2019 is any indication of the season ahead, he's in store for a much stronger campaign.
The second-ranked Padres prospect allowed four hits and a walk while piling up eight strikeouts in five scoreless frames as Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore blanked Inland Empire, 4-0, on Friday at San Manuel Stadium. Gore (1-0) faced three batters over the minimum, throwing 54 of 90 pitches for strikes to earn his first victory since Aug. 14.
Gameday box score
"[I] felt great," Gore said. "Always have the pregame butterflies, but I felt comfortable on the mound."
Three stints on the disabled list limited MLB.com's No. 54 overall prospect to 60 2/3 innings and 16 starts with Class A Fort Wayne last season. Bouncing back and forth off the shelf, Gore finished with a 2-5 mark, a 4.45 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.
Video: Lake Elsinore's Gore fans Hunter
On Friday, he mixed in his entire repertoire, flashing his mid- to low-90s fastball coupled with his off-speed pitches. Although he made it through mostly unscathed, the left-hander believed he could have been sharper.
"Yes, everything was good at times, but I felt like the execution was not great," he said. "Definitely a good start to build off of, but I have a lot of work to do."
After striking out Orlando Martinez to open the game, he got into his first jam by yielding consecutive singles to No. 27 Angels prospect Leonardo Rivas and Franklin Torres. But after a quick mound visit, Gore leaned on his fastball early in the count against David MacKinnon to induce a double-play ball.
"[The double play] was big because they had a little momentum and then we got out of it and put some runs on the board," Gore said. "And they never got the momentum back."
The southpaw worked around a leadoff walk in the second and a one-out single by Torres in the fourth. Kyle Survance Jr. put the shutout in jeopardy in the fifth, when he singled to right and swiped second with two down. Gore kept his cool, though, fanning Jordan Zimmerman in an 11-pitch at-bat to wrap up his night with his eighth punchout.
Opening Night Megacast with MacKenzie Gore
The North Carolina native said he only got stronger after keeping the 66ers off the board in the first and built off that inning throughout the outing. Following the ups and downs of last year, he admitted the strikeout to end the night accentuated the start's positives -- including winning his California League debut.
2019 MiLB include
"Yes, [I] got better as the game went on. It feels great to be back," Gore said. "It was nice to win that long AB [against Zimmerman]. You are going to hear me say this a lot, but I want to dominate every day and not look ahead. That is how you keep from getting too high or too low."
The performance marked the third time the 20-year-old has turned in at least five scoreless innings since being selected third overall in the 2017 Draft. In 12 starts since the second half of last season, Gore has picked up three victories and posted a 3.59 ERA.
Travis Radke and Caleb Boushley each threw two innings to preserve the shutout for Lake Elsinore.
No. 25 Padres prospect Gabriel Arias collected two RBIs with two base knocks. Eguy Rosario belted a solo home run in the seventh to add insurance.