Old pals Avila, Corbin 'worked well together'

May 23rd, 2021

WASHINGTON -- was tasked with catching Patrick Corbin on Sunday. He ended up helping lead the Nationals’ offense in their 6-5 win over the Orioles, too.

Avila had not been behind the plate for Corbin in a regular-season game since 2018, when they both played for the D-backs. In Arizona, they were batterymates for 86 1/3 innings across 14 games, and Corbin had a 3.34 ERA and a 6.06 strikeout-to-walk ratio in those starts. The pair was brought back together in Spring Training this year after Avila signed on to be the Nats' backup catcher, and the reunion felt seamless.

“To be honest, [Corbin] hasn’t changed much as far as his approach since I caught him in Arizona,” Avila said. “That’s what made him really good. That’s what got him here in free agency. It’s that fastball-slider combination.”

Manager Dave Martinez tabbed Avila in the series finale (his 11th game of the season) after Yan Gomes caught all nine innings of Saturday’s three-hour, 41-minute game. Avila called Corbin’s 5 2/3-inning outing, which included four runs on 11 hits and two walks and three strikeouts. Corbin extended his homerless streak to three starts.

“They were really good,” Martinez said. “Alex [Avila] had no issues blocking balls, he got some balls down. I thought they worked well together.”

Avila said game planning for a young team like the Orioles has its challenges, mainly because there isn’t a long history of scouting reports to study for each player. When Corbin ran into an early jam and allowed three runs in the first inning, Avila’s outlook at that point was, “It’s just about outlasting the other guy and keeping us in the game.” After that, Corbin limited Baltimore to one additional run in his outing.

“I think the biggest part of a catcher back there is calling a game,” Corbin said. “I think [Avila] understands it just as well as anybody.”

At the plate, Avila punched a go-ahead RBI double in the first inning and scored the go-ahead run in the fourth. He finished 2-for-3 with a walk, his first multihit game since April 21. Five of his six hits this season have been for extra bases.

“I felt pretty good,” Avila said. “I was able to see the ball well today and contribute.”

Soto not running: 'It doesn’t happen again'
An out isn’t an out until the play has been made. Martinez emphasized that point to Juan Soto after the slugger did not run on a two-out popup in the fourth inning.

The Nationals led, 5-4, and had Andrew Stevenson on third when Soto popped up to catcher Pedro Severino. But after standing at home plate and watching for several seconds, the ball landed in fair territory. By the time Soto began to run to first base, Severino threw him out easily. Stevenson’s run did not count, and Soto slammed his helmet into the ground with both hands after crossing the bag.

“I already talked to him about it, and I told him it’s embarrassing for the whole club,” Martinez said. “He understands that, and I made him apologize to the team. I told him it doesn’t happen again, and he understands that as well.”

Soto finished the afternoon 0-for-5 with a team-high four runners left on base.