LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. — Not many pitchers can dominate without their best stuff. MacKenzie Gore didn’t have his best command early Thursday night, but he still overwhelmed Inland Empire for five innings as the Storm won their 2019 home opener.
The talented 20-year-old gave up just two singles, one a slow chopper on the infield, while striking out seven. He worked in the low-90s in the first inning, missing his spots several times. As he settled in and relied primarily on the fastball, it ticked up to sitting at 93-95, and his location improved though it was not as pinpoint as it has been at his best.
“It got better as the game went on,” said Gore. “I was kind of spraying balls early. I just got comfortable and settled in, and started pitching better.”
In each of his first two Cal League appearances, the highly-regarded prospect has taken a few innings to find a feel. Yet he still hasn’t allowed a run and owns a 15:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 10 innings.
“He still executed a lot of good pitches and commanded the baseball,” said manager Tony Tarasco.
While one of Gore’s calling cards is his four-pitch mix, his fastball was largely enough to dominate the Inland lineup Thursday. He mixed in about a dozen breaking balls and a few changeups among his 84 total offerings.
The club opened the second inning with four consecutive singles and ultimately put up four in the frame without the benefit of an extra-base hit as they batted around. After a quiet third, they plated three more in the fourth, cashing in doubles by Jack Suwinski and Olivier Basabe.
The offense went silent until the eighth when Suwinski legged out an infield hit to drive in Tirso Ornelas from third. Suwinski finished the night with two hits and a walk, pushing his on-base percentage for the young season up to .521. He’s had four straight multi-hit games and has struck out only five times in his first 33 plate appearances.
SYSTEM NOTES: The Padres considered having Robbie Erlin stretch out to prepare for a potential starting role with the big league club, but instead, he will work in multi-inning outings while he’s with Elsinore. … With a slew of hard-throwing mammoth relievers in bullpens through the system, Evan Miller doesn’t immediately stand out, but the Indiana native has quickly picked up three saves this year with 4.2 scoreless innings of work.