Corbin solid, but outfield miscue costs Nats

August 27th, 2020

WASHINGTON -- went for the ball. went for the ball. Neither outfielder ended up with the ball.

It was one of the defensive mishaps in a critical seventh inning in Washington's 3-2 loss to the Phillies on Wednesday at Nationals Park.

“It’s unfortunate because we were playing a pretty clean game,” manager Dave Martinez said. “We can’t give teams that many outs.”

Let’s rewind a bit before getting to that moment. The Nationals had built a 2-1 lead for Patrick Corbin, who began the seventh having thrown just 94 pitches. He was doing exactly what Washington needed from its starters -- going deep in the game to alleviate the workload on the relievers.

There would be a call to the ‘pen soon after. Didi Gregorius, the first batter of the inning, sent a sinking line drive to left field, where a diving Juan Soto missed the ball. Soto had to cover 43 feet in just 3.2 seconds, creating only a 30-percent catch probability. The ball got by him, allowing Gregorius to race around for a leadoff triple.

“I think you’ve got to understand the situation of the game and where we’re at,” Martinez said. “Up one run, for me, you concede the base hit. He’s young, he’s learning, but you just concede the base hit. You keep them at first base and hope for a double play. He thought he could catch the ball, but in that situation, you just want to keep the ball in front of you.”

That marked the end of Corbin's evening, and Washington called on Will Harris from the bullpen. Phillies rookie Alec Bohm jumped on the veteran's first pitch, sending a grounder past Eric Thames at first base and into right field. Gregorius scored the tying run, setting the stage for the outfield collision.

“Once the center fielder calls the ball, you’ve got to respect that. He’s the captain out there. You’ve got to get out of the way,” Martinez said. “I think what happened was, after talking to both of them, they both called it simultaneously and late. One didn’t peel away from the other one. That stuff happens.”

After Roman Quinn bunted and reached on a fielder's choice out at second, Andrew McCutchen came to the plate and swung at a cutter from Harris. Eaton and Robles converged on the fly ball that traveled a projected 355 feet, according to Statcast. Both appeared to call for it, but they bumped into one another and the ball seemed to bounce off Eaton’s glove.

“When the ball was hit, I knew Victor was playing him to pull,” Eaton said. “So right off the bat, I thought it was going to be my ball, because he’s so far. But he has such unbelievable range. I felt the need to call it there at the tail end. As I called it, and as he was speeding in, he called it right at the same time. Of course, when you yell, you don’t hear anything. It was poor timing. I don’t know if we could really have done anything differently.”

Robles recovered the ball to hurl it into the infield. He was able to hold Quinn -- the fastest player in the Major Leagues -- at second, but Quinn scored the go-ahead run two batters later off a Bryce Harper single to left.

The moment was a contrast from Tuesday's game, when Eaton and Soto helped vocally guide Robles on a stunning catch and equally impressive double play.

“Communication’s huge,” Eaton said. “Usually we’re yelling, we’re screaming. … You see it perfectly with Vic the night before, and then tonight, it’s just one of those things where we’re both communicating at the same time and unable to have any luck. If I say it one more time, he hears me. If he says it one more time, I hear him.”

With the loss, the Nats dropped their third straight game and fell to 11-17, remaining in last place in the National League East. They will wrap up the homestand against the rival Phillies on Thursday.

“When it’s a close game like that, it’s unfortunate,” Martinez said. “But we’ve got to keep playing, forget about it and come back tomorrow.”