CINCINNATI - It took one game for left-hander Patrick Corbin to go from his best start of the season to his worst.
On May 25 at Nats Park, Corbin tossed a complete-game, four-hit shutout in a 5-0 Nationals dispatch of the Marlins. It was his fifth win out of seven decisions. He struck out five and walked one.
But Friday night at Great American Ball Park, the Reds were not going for Corbin's patented slider and rolled to eight runs in the first three innings to coast to a 9-3 win over the Nationals.
"His location was a little off," said Nationals manager Davey Martinez. "They laid off the slider, which he usually gets a lot of people to swing at. They didn't swing at it that much today. Just had an off day."
With the Nats coming off wins in five of their last six, Friday's loss felt like a step in the wrong direction again, similar to the struggles the team had endured last week against the Cubs and the Mets.
Does shortstop Trea Turner believe the club wasted their recent momentum?
"I don't know. I think that momentum is so hard to pinpoint," Turner said. "Sometimes you got it, sometimes you don't. I think if we play yesterday, that doesn't necessarily change how we play today, I don't think an off-day necessarily has that much of an effect on the following day. So for me, we just got to keep plugging away.
"I think we did some good things at times, but as a whole we didn't do enough to win. So move on tomorrow and try to win."
Cincinnati pounded out 15 hits, 11 off of Corbin in scoring early and often.
The left-hander lasted only 2 2/3 innings, his shortest start of the season, and his shortest stint since Sept. 22, 2018, a 5-1 loss in three innings while with the Diamondbacks against the Rockies. Corbin (5-3) last allowed six earned runs May 30, 2018, for Arizona in a 7-4 loss, also to the Reds.
The Reds racked up four consecutive singles in the first off a bewildered Corbin. The barrage included RBI singles from Eugenio SuÃ¡rez and Yasiel Puig. The inning was capped off by a three-run shot from Curt Casali, who finished with three hits and four RBIs.
"Yeah, it seemed like it happened fairly quick there," Corbin said. "They got a couple of hits there on two pitches. I felt good out there. It's just some fell in and then I made a couple of mistakes on a fastball in where they got a hit and the homer pitch. They just came out swinging. I didn't execute as well as I have. Just try to leave this one and move forward."
Did Corbin feel like the Reds were spitting on his slider?
"Most teams try to do that, I guess," Corbin said. "Just kind of happened quick, first two pitches got a couple of guys on. Just trying to make some quality pitches there, fell behind on some guys. Didn't execute as well as I have. I can see teams trying to do that, trying to stay away from that slider."
In the third, the Reds tallied three more runs on four hits, aided by a Turner fielding error that allowed a run to score. Turner has committed five errors in 14 games since his return from a broken right index finger. He had two errors through the first 18 games last season.
"Just tripped over myself, and couldn't get handle on it," Turner said of the miscue. "Probably would have been a fairly easy double play because I was right next to second base. But that's how small, you know, small details matter in this game. Something so stupid like that can be the difference. And that's where we're at right now. We kind of got to do everything perfect, for the most part, and can't get away with mistakes like that, so we need to make those plays."
Martinez decided he had to get Corbin out of there with two outs in the third after 65 pitches.
"The first three innings he had a lot of high-leverage situations, so his pitch count was getting up there, so I didn't want to keep him out there," Martinez said. "It's one of those days, I know he'll bounce back in his next start. I got to keep him fresh and keep him ready."
Corbin had thrown 107 or more pitches in four of his previous five starts. Could fatigue have been a factor in his struggles Friday night?
"No. We looked at that and we talked," Martinez said. "I talked to these guys and he said he felt really good. Even tonight when I took him out he said, 'I felt good, just wasn't biting (on the slider), I had to throw the ball more over the plate.' He got behind. They had a good approach against him, really stayed up the middle, didn't try to do too much. He's a professional, so he knows what he's going to give us next time out."
Facing reliever Javy Guerra in the fourth, the Reds tacked on another run, thanks to a Casali RBI double to make it 9-2.
Right-hander Tyler Mahle (2-5) was outstanding for the Reds, striking out the side in the first and third innings. The Nats brought in a run in the fifth to make it 9-3 and loaded the bases for Juan Soto, but Mahle got him to fly out to deep center field to end the rally. He finished five innings on 91 pitches, 55 for strikes. Mahle allowed three runs on five hits with two walks and eight strikeouts.
Soto went 3-for-4, with a single, double, solo homer - his 10th - and two RBIs. His 14-game hit streak is a career high.
Guerra did a nice job in attempting to hold the deficit, twirling 3 1/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits with two walks, one intentional, and two strikeouts. Tony Sipp and Matt Grace combined for a pair of clean, scoreless innings. The Reds' Matt Bowman worked a scoreless ninth for the Reds.
"For me, it's just making sure I'm not too aggressive," Guerra said. "Control and understanding (is) what I'm trying to do out there, and what I'm trying to accomplish."
The loss drops the Nats' series-opener record to 4-15, and they finish May with a 12-17 record. They are 8-22 when their opponent scores first, and 3-11 versus the National League Central this season.