SAN FRANCISCO – There were moments tonight when the Nationals seemed to be on Logan Webb. They did, after all, rap out nine hits off the Giants ace and present themselves with a number of golden opportunities in the early innings at Oracle Park.
And then there were moments tonight when it seemed like Webb had the Nats eating out of his hand. Especially when facing the inexperienced bottom of this lineup, which was no match for the right-hander’s assortment of sinkers, changeups and sliders.
In the end, there were more of those frustrating moments than the promising ones for the Nationals, who managed only one run off Webb and were left to suffer a 4-1 loss to San Francisco in the second game of this week’s series by the bay.
Continuing a semi-recurring theme through the season’s first six weeks, the Nats hit a bunch of singles to give themselves a chance. But they could not take advantage of those opportunities, going 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, including 0-for-7 in the game’s first three innings alone.
"We had traffic all day; we couldn't get that big hit," manager Davey Martinez said. "(Webb) got tough. Guys were on base, he threw some really good changeups, mixed in his two-seamer. He got really tough with guys on base."
The biggest culprits were Joey Meneses and Jeimer Candelario, who each stranded a pair of runners in the first and third innings, and CJ Abrams and Jake Alu (in his major league debut), who each stranded a pair of runners in the second and sixth innings.
"First at-bat, wanted to be able to put the ball in play and just wasn't able to get it done," said Alu, who finished 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. "But baseball's a funny sport. You come back tomorrow, you've got another game. Not the most ideal first start, but definitely looking to progress."
Abrams would strand two more runners on base in the eighth, grounding out on the first pitch he saw from reliever Tyler Rogers to complete a rough night both at the plate and in the field.
Returning to the mound five days after his best start in a long time, in which he held the Cubs to one (sun-aided) hit through his first seven innings, Patrick Corbin immediately found himself in trouble tonight, not all of it his fault. Abrams’ throwing error on Austin Slater’s leadoff grounder to short set the tone for a shaky bottom of the first that also saw Corbin give up a single to Thairo Estrada and a two-run double to Mitch Haniger.
Abrams looked uncomfortable in the field all night and initially was charged with another error when he booted Brett Wisely’s chopper up the middle in the bottom of the second. That call was later changed to a hit, but even so, Abrams has now been charged with eight errors this season, and five of them have come in games started by Corbin.
"I think I need to use my legs a little more," Abrams said. "The wind was blowing against me. I probably should've used my legs a little more to get it across (the diamond)."
Corbin managed to get out of the second-inning jam, but he couldn’t avoid bigger trouble in the fourth when Casey Schmitt ambushed his first-pitch fastball and drove it 420 feet to left-center to commemorate his major league debut in style. The 24-year-old shortstop became the youngest Giants player to homer in his first career game since Will Clark in 1986.
Corbin’s most impressive feat tonight, though, might well have been his reaction to what could’ve been a terrifying moment. With two outs in the fifth, Haniger ripped a 100 mph line drive straight back up the box. Corbin could only react by sticking his left arm in front of his face. He managed to absorb some of the shock with his pitching arm, but the ball still caromed off the left side of his face, knocking him to the ground.
"I couldn't get out there fast enough; I got caught up in the dugout," said Martinez, who rushed alongside director of athletic training Paul Lessard to check on Corbin. "It was scary. I did see the ball clip him in the head, but he said it just grazed him."
"I kind of saw it the whole way, put my arms up," said Corbin, whose wrist was wrapped up postgame. "It hit the top of my left wrist and then got a little bit of the face. But overall, pretty good. I think the wrist got it a little bit more. It's good we've got an extra day (of rest) coming up, so that will help. But I think I'll be all right."
He would record four more outs and depart having completed six innings with three runs (two earned) to his name.
It was Corbin’s fourth quality start in his last five outings, but he has not emerged with a win in any of them. That’s in part due to poor run support and in part due to him not being all that dominant.
Still, he’s giving the Nationals a chance each time he takes the mound. Considering how low the bar has been set after his last three seasons, the Nats really can’t ask for much more than that.
"You go out there and try to go as deep as you can every day," Corbin said. "Make quality pitches, throw strikes and just try to continue that. Obviously, we're disappointed we didn't get the win tonight. Overall, we've been playing well as a team, and we've been pitching well and playing some good defense. They just had a good pitcher tonight. We'll try to win a series tomorrow."