LOS ANGELES -- In the clubhouse as the champagne celebration began winding down, Nationals pitching coach Paul Menhart found Patrick Corbin, still soaked in beer with goggles on his head, and gave him a large hug. After a disastrous relief appearance in Game 3, Corbin wanted to get back on
LOS ANGELES -- In the clubhouse as the champagne celebration began winding down, Nationals pitching coach Paul Menhart found Patrick Corbin, still soaked in beer with goggles on his head, and gave him a large hug. After a disastrous relief appearance in Game 3, Corbin wanted to get back on the mound. He told manager Dave Martinez and Menhart that he would be available to pitch again in Game 4 or whenever, just for a chance at redemption.
The Nationals are going to the National League Championship Series for the first time because of efforts like Corbin's from their pitching staff, not just in Wednesday's 7-3 victory in 10 innings in Game 5, but for the entire NL Division Series against the Dodgers. The Nationals got past the top-seeded team thanks to the willingness of their starting pitchers to come out of the bullpen for relief appearances. To seal Wednesday's game, Martinez also got some quality innings from his 'pen.
Tanner Rainey retired a pair of batters. Daniel Hudson kept the game tied in the ninth -- even though Will Smith just narrowly missed a walk-off homer. And Sean Doolittle wrapped up the save with a scoreless 10th and then launched his glove into the air to celebrate once the final out was secure.
“Let's not forget our bullpen,” Martinez said. “Our bullpen came in today, after putting Corbin in, he struggled coming in, in relief last time he came out, and [he] shut them down. Rainey coming in and getting two big outs for us. And then Huddie and Doo have been unbelievable for us down the stretch, and they come in and shut down what I believe is one of the best hitting teams in the game over there.”
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The path to 27 outs was never easy for Martinez to map out each night, as he tried to navigate a historically weak bullpen for a playoff team. He and Menhart sat down each day and began highlighting parts of the Dodgers' lineup and which pitchers presented the best matchup. For most of this series, they did so masterfully.
Once Stephen Strasburg left Game 5 after six innings, Martinez wanted to turn to Corbin again, even after Corbin was charged with six runs in two-thirds of an inning during his relief appearance on Sunday.
Still, Martinez searched for the correct moment to deploy Corbin. He found it in the seventh. Rainey got the first two outs and Martinez, who navigated this series with Doolittle as his lone lefty in the bullpen, tabbed Corbin to face Joc Pederson. Corbin struck out Pederson and polished off a 1-2-3 eighth inning to help pave the way for a Nationals comeback.
“I felt good enough to go back out there,” Corbin said. “Give credit to Davey having some trust in his guys and letting me finish that eighth inning there.”
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.