Corbin’s best not enough as Nats’ losing streak reaches eight (updated)

Patrick Corbin was “pissed” after his last start. He said so after completing only 1 2/3 innings against the Giants on Friday while his ERA inflated to 11.20 and his WHIP went up to 2.561 on the season.

So after an extra day of rest and an intense bullpen session Tuesday with pitching coach Jim Hickey that manager Davey Martinez called “crisp,” Corbin was looking for his best outing of the season. And the Nationals needed it to avoid a second straight sweep and an eight-game losing streak at home.

Corbin did his part, becoming just the second Nationals starter to complete six innings this season while only giving up two earned runs. He struck out a season-high eight batters over his six-plus innings.

But even Corbin’s best wasn’t enough to break the losing streak as the Nats fell to the Marlins 3-2 in front of 12,454 fans taking in Thursday’s matinee.

“Felt really good," Corbin said after the game. "I've been working on a lot of stuff, so it's good to see some results out there. But yeah, I felt pretty good. Just try to continue off this. It's been a tough week or so for us here. It stinks we didn't get the win, but guys are out there fighting and they'll come.”

It was a heavy dose of sliders and sinkers for Corbin against an all right-handed lineup from Marlins manager Don Mattingly. The lefty threw his sinker 46 percent of the time and his slider 37 percent of the time, while occasionally mixing in his fastball and changeup.

“I'm trying to simplify," the southpaw said. "Get back to my slider. I thought that was really good today. We threw a bunch of changeups. Was in the zone a lot more. So I think, overall, just a lot of positives to take away.”

Although Corbin found success with his off-speed stuff on the mound and lowered his ERA to 8.69, the defense behind him let him down in costly situations.

In the top of the second inning, a throwing error by shortstop Lucius Fox allowed Miguel Rojas to advance to second and then score on Jon Berti's RBI double. Berti then moved to third on an error by Victor Robles. Though the run was unearned and Berti never came around to score, it’s a mistake the Nationals can’t afford to make behind their struggling starter.

Credit to Corbin for not letting the mishaps behind him send his outing off the rails. A week ago the trouble would have kept coming. Today he was able to fight it off and get deep in the game.

“Yeah, he threw the ball well, he really did," Martinez said of his starter's outing. "I mean that last inning out there, he threw a pretty good pitch to (Brian) Anderson and then the hit batsman scared him. As you saw, he went down a little bit. But I thought he threw the ball really well today. If he could repeat that in five days, that'd be awesome.”

Corbin did run into trouble in the seventh and couldn’t keep Martinez in the dugout. After a leadoff double to Anderson, Corbin hit Rojas on the flap of his helmet. A scary scene as Rojas went down quickly and Corbin dropped to his knees in front of the mound, visibly upset.

Rojas, incredibly, stayed in the game and took his base as Martinez came out to get Corbin and bring in Victor Arano. The Marlins would tack on two runs in the frame, both charged to Corbin, for a 3-1 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

“That's the one thing, you're hoping he's OK," Corbin said of hitting Rojas. "It's tough. You never, obviously, want something like that to happen. And I believe that's the first time it's happened to me and it kind of just shocked me a little bit to see that. But he gave me the thumbs up kind of when I was walking off. So just scary those (moments), when you come set, especially throwing a four-seam inside there and he squares around, you lose your visual, your sight a little bit, and sometimes your mechanics change or you're trying to get the ball. And I think that's just one of those cases. We saw it earlier this year with (Steve) Cishek. So it's scary. But yeah, you just hope he's OK.”

It wasn't hard for the Marlins pitching staff to hold off this reeling Nationals offense. The home team took an early lead in the first via a leadoff single by César Hernández, who advanced to third on a wild pitch and passed ball, and an RBI double by Josh Bell. 

That would be it for much of the afternoon, as the Nationals didn’t even get a ball out of the infield from the third to the sixth inning. They did, however, manage a rally in the eighth.

Back-to-back two-out doubles by Robles and Hernández made it a 3-2 game and gave Juan Soto a chance to tie it or give the Nats a lead. After a five-pitch walk, that opportunity fell to Bell against Cole Sulser. And in the biggest spot of the game, the Nationals’ most consistent hitter struck out on three pitches to end the threat.

Is there added pressure on the offense to score when the starting pitcher gets deep into the game?

“No, no, not at all. You know, that's part of baseball,” Hernández said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “We're out there trying to do our job, and things right now aren't going our way and things aren't pulling our way. But it does not add any other pressure. That's just baseball. We go out there and try to do as best as we can.”

More mistakes were made on the basepaths early on in the game, also by Fox. The switch-hitting 24-year-old shortstop, getting his second straight start so he could bat right-handed, drew a walk in the fifth but was immediately picked off by Marlins starter Trevor Rogers. Another blunder in the field while his potential competition, Luis García, started his afternoon by hitting his third home run in his third straight at-bat with Triple-A Rochester.

Something to monitor in the future.

For now, the Nationals leave the confines of their home stadium having lost eight in a row and suffered two straight sweeps. They’ll now go on a nine-game road trip with a 6-15 record, starting this weekend in San Francisco against the Giants.

While Corbin finally looked strong, the lineup, among other things, continues to drag this team down.

“We got to stay positive, for sure," Davey Martinez said. "You know, as I said before, we're all about competing and trying to win every game. It's been tough. I'm not gonna lie. It's been tough. I've been staying up, I've been looking at a bunch of different things trying to get guys better. Right now, we're just not having, throughout our lineup, there's no consistent at-bats. We've taken some walks, we're not getting that big hit. We're not having that big inning. So we need to start swinging the bats a little bit better.”

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