After making one of his worst starts as a professional exactly one week ago, it seems safe to say that MacKenzie Gore is back.
MLB.com's No. 3 overall prospect allowed four hits and a walk over 5 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out six, in Double-A Amarillo's 2-1 win over Springfield on Friday at Hammons Field. The stellar outing followed one in which he surrendered a career-high seven runs over four innings.
Video: Sod Poodles' Gore's sixth K
"It was good, especially [since] the last one was really bad. ... It was definitely a good one to bounce back and just build on from here," Gore said.
The left-hander quickly put that behind him, fanning six of the first nine batters. He set down three in the first, two in the second and another to open the third for his final punchout.
The top Padres prospect didn't allow more than one baserunner over the first five innings but got into trouble to begin the sixth after an extended wait caused by a Sod Poodles rally in the top of the frame. Gore (2-0) walked rehabbing big leaguer Matt Carpenter to start the inning and yielded a one-out single to Brian O'Keefe that moved the three-time All-Star to third. That was all for the southpaw, and reliever Carlos Belen got two quick outs to preserve the shutout.
The young left-hander attributed the bounce-back success to refined execution of his pitches, particularly the fastball.
Gameday box score
"The stuff was just a little better," he said. "Everything was kind of down last start. I made pitches when I had to tonight, and it was good."
In the week between the two outings, Gore said it was business as usual in his preparations. After all, it was just one blemish on what's been an otherwise spotless season in which he hadn't allowed more than two runs in a game.
"There was no panic button after giving up seven runs," he said. "I was going to have a bad one. It wasn't going to be like that all year. But no, it was just, 'Hey, just figure out what you need to work on between this one and just get ready to go.'"
Gore also did work from the other side of the plate, slapping a single to right field in the fifth inning. It was his first hit in the Minor Leagues and came in just his second plate appearance.
Video: Sod Poodles' Gore's first career hit
"That was fun, to be back in the box," he said. "A little weird, but yeah, that was a lot of fun. ... It was a different adrenaline."
Through three starts with Amarillo, the 20-year-old has a 4.30 ERA with 14 strikeouts over 14 2/3 innings. He opened the season with Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore, where he stitched together a 1.02 ERA in 15 starts, striking out 110 over 79 1/3 frames.
Overall, it appears Gore is back on track. As he and the Sod Poodles head down the stretch, he said the key to staying on course is the same thing that returned him to normalcy Friday: controlling his fastball.
2019 MiLB include
"The fastball command is going to be the thing that I have to tighten up a little bit," he said. "The past month it hasn't been great, so if I get that back the way it needs to be, it's going to be a good end of the year."
Belen fanned three over 1 2/3 hitless innings before Travis Radke gave up a run in the eighth. David Bednar struck out the side in the ninth for his seventh save.
The Sod Poodles scored both of their runs in the sixth as Kyle Overstreet drew a bases-loaded walk and Padres No. 14 prospect Hudson Potts raced home on a wild pitch.