WASHINGTON -- A doubleheader on Saturday. Twenty-one games in the next 19 days. No rest until Sept. 9.
The Nationals’ arms are in for a long road ahead, and each inning pitched is a valuable asset that can have a domino effect on the rest of the staff. Manager Dave Martinez has tasked his starters with throwing as deep into games as possible to alleviate the workload of the bullpen. Left-hander Patrick Corbin delivered on Friday in the opener of the Nationals’ five-game series against the Marlins at Nats Park.
After giving up a three-run, second-inning homer to Miguel Rojas, Corbin settled down and threw 6 1/3 frames. He fanned nine, walked two and allowed just three runs on eight hits in Washington’s 3-2 loss.
“It was awesome,” Martinez said. “He had really good stuff tonight. He made one bad mistake and it cost him three runs, but other than that, he was really, really good. That was great to see.”
The outing comes five days after Corbin threw just five innings against the Orioles in what he described as "one of those nights where things weren’t really working for me.” Facing the Marlins, Corbin got back on track by producing 51 swings and 18 whiffs, 11 of which came on his go-to slider. He threw 66 of his 102 pitches for strikes.
“I felt pretty good,” Corbin said. “That pitch that was a homer was a heater -- just fell behind 2-0 and it was right down the middle. Just a mistake there. I felt like I was in the zone better today. I felt under control. The two-seamer was working well, the slider was there. Threw some slow breaking balls as well.”
An early deficit could have signaled an early night for Corbin and an expedited call to the ‘pen. Instead, he pitched 1-2-3 innings in the fourth and the sixth frames, and was able to reach his 100-pitch marker.
“He was kind of nitpicking a little bit with some guys and we had to make some pitches, but he was able to get out of some big innings,” catcher Yan Gomes said. “To go into the seventh inning, that’s pretty impressive on his own. He kept us in the ballgame. At any point like that where you give up a three-run [home run] early, you can kind of lose your rhythm and kind of go short. He gave us a heck of an outing. We wish we could have picked him up.”
Solo homers by Gomes (100th of his career) and Trea Turner in the second and third innings, respectively, cut the Nationals' deficit to one run, but they would get no closer than a two-out rally in the seventh that ended with runners on first and second.
Pitching is at a premium for the Nationals on this long stretch ahead. The starting rotation took a hit when Stephen Strasburg was diagnosed with carpal tunnel neuritis in his right hand, and he is considering treatment options. The bullpen has been short-handed this season without left-handers Sean Doolittle (10-day injured list, right knee fatigue), Roenis Elías (60-day IL, left elbow flexor strain) and Sam Freeman (60-day IL, left flexor mass strain). Out-by-out, the starters are trying to give the relievers and the team an edge.
“You always want to finish that seventh inning, or finish the inning you go out in,” Corbin said. “That's my goal every start. You just try to go out there, be reliable, go as deep as you can. With our offense and the way our bullpen's been pitching, we're going to start winning some games.”