Is Corbin's complete game sign of a turnaround?

Nats fall, but LHP tosses gem as Y. Hernandez keeps raking

May 5th, 2022

DENVER -- Despite throwing just the second complete game by a Major League starting pitcher thus far this season, the Nationals dropped a 5-2 contest to the Rockies on Wednesday night at Coors Field. Here are three takeaways from the game, ahead of the series finale on Thursday afternoon.

Corbin efficient on the hill
A four-pitch first inning set the tone for Corbin’s sixth career complete game and second at Coors Field.

“Forget about the outcome of the game,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Patrick was awesome today. He did everything we asked him to do: he attacked the strike zone, he had six innings with 15 pitches or less, faced 24 batters with three pitches or less. You can’t ask for more than what he did today -- and he finished the game.”

Just two starts removed from his ERA ballooning to 11.20, Corbin navigated a low count of 94 pitches to nine hits, five runs (three earned), no walks and three strikeouts. Working in tandem with catcher Riley Adams, the southpaw kept the Nationals in the game for his longest outing since June 15, 2021.

"Sort of an old school game, you know, a guy that went the distance?” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “It's similar to the Patrick that I've seen over the years, maybe a tick down in velocity but great feel to pitch with this three pitches. … If he throws like that, he's going to win some games for the Nationals."

Among the Nats’ pitching performances (2005-present), Corbin was the first to throw a four-pitch first inning since John Lannan on June 28, 2008. He also was the first Nationals pitcher to record a complete game loss since Max Scherzer did it on June 21, 2017.

“Without a win, though, it's kind of tough, but I kind of take away some positives,” Corbin said, adding, “The whole game, I felt really good. ... I was able to finish, felt strong there in the end.”

Defensive miscues loom large
Corbin’s solid outing was mired by the Nationals’ defensive missteps. The team committed three errors, including two by shortstop Alcides Escobar, who has been trying to avoid the mistakes similar to the ones he committed Saturday in San Francisco.

Rather than ending the fourth inning with a double play, Escobar’s fielding error loaded the bases and spiraled into a five-run Rockies rally.

“I’ve said this, and I preach it every single day: ‘We’ve got to catch the ball. We’ve got to catch the ball,’” Martinez said. “And we didn’t do that today. It’s upsetting because of what Patrick did. But we’ve got to play defense, that’s the name of the game. We’ve got to play defense. We didn’t do that today.”

As he did on Saturday, Escobar, who won a Gold Glove Award in 2015, was reflective of the errors, spoke candidly on their impact and looked ahead on how to prevent them.

"I watched [the video] during the game,” Escobar said. “But like I said again, they are just dumb errors. … I don't want to commit them. I feel extremely bad, and I feel even worse since Corbin did a tremendous job for us out there and pitched a great game. Me, personally, I feel extremely bad about the errors that were committed."

Hernandez has that 'wow' factor
Asked to describe 's production in one word this week, Martinez replied, “Wow.”

“I’ve said this before: the guy can hit,” Martinez said. “He has good at-bats. Right now, he’s swinging the bat really well.”

Hernandez emerged from contending for a backup outfield role during Spring Training to establishing himself as one of the Nats’ top hitters this season. He has been in the lineup 17 of the Nationals’ 26 games, including eight of their last nine, with a .414 batting average in his last seven contests.

On Wednesday, Hernandez moved up to the No. 4 spot in the order as the designated hitter when Nelson Cruz was sidelined with back stiffness. He went 2-for-4, his fourth consecutive multi-hit game.

Hernandez entered the game ranked in the 91st percentile of all players in wOBA and in the 88th percentile of all batters with a 14.9 percent barrel rate. His 27.2% chase rate was above the league average of 28.3%. Martinez lauded Hernandez’s improved discipline with offspeed pitches, and his .286 batting average against such pitches was tied for 38th among all players (min. 10 plate appearances). This standout production is coming two seasons after making his Major League debut in September of 2020 at age 32.

“He’s a joy to be around,” Martinez said. “He loves the game, he loves his teammates and his teammates love him. They embrace him and they have a good time together in the dugout, in the clubhouse. He keeps everybody on their feet.”