BALTIMORE – The Nationals and Orioles knew it was going to start raining at some point tonight, it was just a matter of when. And once it began, whether it would stop for any reasonable length of time.
So that turned tonight’s game into something of a three-way battle between Patrick Corbin, Tyler Wells and Mother Nature. And in the end, Mother Nature (and, as it turns out, the Orioles) won, though they both managed to prolong the misery.
With Baltimore leading by three runs after 4 1/2 innings, making this an official game, the skies over Camden Yards finally opened. But the rain eased up enough to allow play to resume after a 44-minute delay, giving Austin Hays the opportunity to hit for the cycle and the Orioles to extend their lead to 7-0 before the game went into another delay at the end of the sixth inning, this one lasting 1 hour, 2 minutes before the game finally was called.
"The grounds crew was really good," manager Davey Martinez said. "They did a good job to try to get us back out there. But we were going to battle the weather all night. The field, even though it could've been playable later on, it's going to rain. The outfield was pretty soaked. So I think they did a good job by calling it."
So it was the Nats were left to suffer a blowout loss and spend more time than they wanted to at the ballpark before boarding a late flight to Texas for this weekend’s series against the Rangers.
The game had just become official when Nelson Cruz struck out to end the top of the fifth, the home team no longer required to bat because it held the lead. And as if on cue, the rain began falling as Erasmo Ramírez was warming up on the mound in relief of Corbin, sending everybody scurrying for cover.
When play resumed after the relatively brief delay, Ramírez returned to the mound and retired the side in the bottom of the fifth. Steve Cishek was not nearly as fortunate in the bottom of the sixth, giving up four runs on five hits before he was unceremoniously pulled by Martinez.
By that point, Hays had ripped a double to left-center, completing the sixth cycle in Orioles history, and the third recorded against the Nationals. Hays joins the Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon on Sept. 30, 2018 and the Padres’ Jake Cronenworth on July 16, 2021 in achieving that feat.
Trey Mancini’s subsequent homer to left capped off a miserable inning for Cishek and a miserable night for the Nationals.
"We were watching him; a couple pitches he threw 85-86 mph because he couldn't get a grip," Martinez said of Cishek. "So that's an indication it's getting a little dangerous out there."
Corbin was charged with the loss, his 10th in 15 starts this season, after allowing three runs over four labored innings. The left-hander needed a whopping 83 pitches to get that far, done in by seven hits, a walk and a pesky Orioles lineup that fouled off 30 pitches to make life miserable for him.
"They did foul off a lot; I'm not quite sure why that was the case," Corbin said. "I thought we made some good pitches, and they fought it off. They came out swinging; they swung a lot, even when we got ahead, and they continued to foul off some pitches. Just a strange game."
The Nationals hoped Corbin would be able to continue a surprising recent run of dominance by the club’s rotation, which had not surrendered an earned run since the nightcap of Friday’s doubleheader against the Phillies. Josiah Gray, Jackson Tetreault and Erick Fedde all had posted zeros since, and Fedde even joked to Corbin after Tuesday’s game: “Don’t mess it up, dude, ’cause we’ve got a good one going.”
As has too often been the case for three seasons now, Corbin couldn’t hold up his end of the bargain.
The lefty immediately got into trouble in the first inning, allowing back-to-back singles and then an RBI double to Ryan Mountcastle, though he avoided further damage by striking out three batters during a 31-pitch frame.
Things briefly improved with a 1-2-3 second, but then Corbin fell victim to the longball in the third, not even able to benefit from Camden Yards’ new expanded left field dimensions. Hays opened the inning by blasting an 0-2 slider over the deep and high wall, one of three hits for the Baltimore leadoff man through the game’s first four innings.
Two batters later, Anthony Santander launched a 3-0 fastball into the bullpen in left-center for a 3-0 lead, prolonging Corbin’s misery. By the time that inning ended, his pitch count was up to 73. He managed to get through the fourth on only 10 pitches, but that’s as far as Martinez was willing to push him, so Corbin departed with a 6.60 ERA on the season, in line for another loss.
"Numbers-wise, it's terrible," he said. "I feel my stuff was pretty good. I think I was up to 96 (mph) today. Thought I had some good sliders, good command of my fastball. Did get some weak contact. Other than those two homers there and a lot of foul balls, which drove the pitch count up, I felt like my stuff was pretty good. But maybe it's not."
Corbin's offensive mates provided no run support, even though they drove up Wells’ pitch count to 95 after five scoreless innings. The Nationals put at least one runner on base in each of those five innings, twice putting multiple runners on base, but could not convert.
Juan Soto was thrown out trying to go from first to third on Josh Bell’s looping single to right-center in the first, killing that rally. Soto would drive a ball to the warning track in right in the top of the third, only to have it caught. And later that inning, with the bases loaded and two out, Luis García struck out looking at a 1-2 slider at the knees, killing another opportunity.
"We've just got to get consistent with our bats," Martinez said. "And we have guys on base, we've got to start driving runs in ... and try to put the pressure on the other team."