From the first seven batters he faced, it was not a smooth start for Patrick Corbin.
The Astros put together four base hits in a row, scoring two runs in the first inning. Then Astros backstop Robinson Chirinos blasted a two-run shot in the fourth inning. Houston built an early 4-0 lead in Game 4 of the World Series, cruising to an 8-1 victory to even the best-of-seven Fall Classic at two games apiece.
The Nationals southpaw battled back, recording nine outs in a row to end his outing, but with the offense unable to get anything going for the second game in a row, the damage was done.
Corbin allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings, walking two and striking out five. He threw 96 pitches, 59 for strikes.
Corbin looked like he was trying to establish his fastball and changeup, then peppered Houston hitters with his slider. But the Astros had no trouble connecting with the fastball. Alex Bregman and Yuri Gurriel dropped in back-to-back run-scoring singles in the first inning. Michael Brantley had two hits.
“I think that was sort of an in-game adjustment we tried to make,” said catcher Yan Gomes. “We were throwing some sliders and they weren’t really biting on it. And they were being aggressive, so we had to kind of try to mix and match a little bit, throwing his changeup and his curveball a little bit more. I think he did a tremendous job settling in, getting some good innings in.”
Chirinos delivered the home run off a Corbin changeup. The southpaw was hoping to throw the pitch down and away. But it ended up in a place where Chirinos could handle it.
“We got some outs on it early with some other hitters too and just the location on that pitch wasn’t where I wanted it,” Corbin said of the changeup. “It was right down the middle. If I locate it better, it’s different outcome.”
Did Corbin wait too long to use his slider? Did Gomes and Corbin overthink their strategy by not throwing the slider as much as they usually would because Houston just saw him during a relief appearance in Game 1?
“I mean, they are obviously a great team and you make mistakes, you’re going to pay,” Corbin said. “So we tried to do what we thought was the best in each situation. They got on me early and were able to mix it up a little bit. Threw some more changeups today. We’ll just have to get over this and get ready to go tomorrow.”
The game plan went in the opposite direction from where Gomes was hoping to guide Corbin. Instead of the Nats jumping on the Astros, it was Houston that set the tone.
“It was definitely to get ahead on them, definitely to get to his pitches,” Gomes said. “I think they were definitely a little bit more aggressive than maybe at least I thought. I thought we still made some decent pitches. Those are good hitters out there so you got to give them some credit too. They did a tremendous job.”
So has changing Corbin’s roles this postseason finally taken its toll? He has been a reliever and a starter, and come back in short rest. Are the Nationals pulling him in too many directions?
“I think Pat’s still Pat,” Gomes said. “I think he’s still going to come out and do his thing. He’s done a lot for this team that has been asked of him. He’s pitched in quite (a lot) of situations he’s not very used to.
“I don’t think he’d ever give that as a way out for him. He still wants the ball every time. He feels good to do it and we feel confident with him there.”
Corbin said: “Obviously, we wanted to win these last two. Didn’t come out our way, but we’ve been doing this all season. We’ve had losses, big losses, and have bounced back fine. Guys will be ready to go tomorrow.”