With the Nationals clinging to a 2-1 lead after five innings in pivotal Game 3 of the National League Division Series, manager Davey Martinez opted to have left-hander Patrick Corbin relieve starter Aníbal Sánchez.
“Aníbal was at 87 pitches. He gave us all he had. We were at a good spot in the lineup where we thought Corbin could get through it,” Martinez said. “And his stuff was good, he’s throwing 94 (mph), slider was good. I think he left one ball up. But he had every hitter 0-2, he just couldn’t finish. They laid off some good pitches.”
The inning did not go as planned, and time and time again, Corbin would get to two strikes with two outs, but was never able to record the final out of the inning. The Dodgers ended up scoring seven runs on six hits in the frame to take control of the game.
The 2-1 lead turned quickly into an 8-2 deficit. The Nationals eventually fell 10-4 and now trail the best-of-five NLDS two games to one.
Cody Bellinger singled to lead off the inning. Corbin bounced back with a pair of strikeouts of Corey Seager and A.J. Pollock. It looked like he might have been able to get out of the jam.
But pinch-hitter David Freese singled. Then Russell Martin delivered the biggest hit if the game, a double to score two runs. After a walk to pinch-hitter Chris Taylor, pinch-hitter Kiké Hernández drilled another two-run double. Suddenly, the Nats were down 5-2. Corbin’s night ended with an intentional walk to Max Muncy.
“It was a fastball in and I think it was where we wanted it,” Corbin said of the Freese hit. “Just kind of found a hole and got the inning continued. I just didn’t make a pitch after that. I got ahead, and left a couple breaking balls up on Martin and Kiké. I mean, those were just two terrible pitches.”
Corbin on the Martin at-bat: “I was trying to bury it (slider). Just didn’t get it there. We threw fastball up the pitch before - it was a little high and he laid off it. Was trying to throw a back-foot slider there and it just kind of spun.”
In the end, Corbin was tagged with six runs because Wander Suero later surrendered a three-run shot to Justin Turner.
“I felt good warming up, came in and got ahead 0-2. Bellinger worked back into it, gave up a hit there, and got a couple outs after that,” Corbin said. “Just couldn’t seem to get that third out there. Just stinks. Coming in, we’re up by one there, just trying to get through a clean inning there. Just left a couple sliders there, kind of spun out. Didn’t have the usual break that I’ve had on them.”
The slider is, of course, Corbin’s go-to pitch. But the Dodgers already saw Corbin in Game 1. And they connected on the slider tonight, a pitch that maybe was a bit more available to them instead of how Corbin was dropping it out of the strike zone in the series opener.
Bellinger worked Corbin for eight pitches, eventually getting a hit off his slider. Martin and Hernández each connected on the slider for the backbreaking two-run doubles that changed the game.
“Yeah, he’s probably one of the guys that knows how to throw a slider better than most people,” said catcher Yan Gomes. “It’s his pitch, he’s made a living out of it. It’s one of those things where it’s almost like when you try to make it a little bit bigger and throw it for a strike, maybe they’re already either looking for it and spoiling other pitches and when we tried to make it a little bigger they made us pay for it.”
Martinez admitted that not only did the Nats want Corbin for the sixth, but they were also hoping he would have a quick frame and be able to come back for the seventh. But with everything that went wrong in that inning - all the extended at-bats and the four hits allowed - Corbin had to throw 35 pitches. That was the total Martinez was hoping he would reach in two innings.
“We liked Corbin there,” Martinez said. “Couldn’t tell you, hoping we get two out of him, but his limit was going to be about 35 pitches. He hit that limit. So we got to put this one behind us right now, and we got to come back tomorrow. Hey, I told the boys, we stayed in the fight all year, so let’s stay in the fight tomorrow and let’s get ready to go to L.A.”
Corbin added: “It just stinks. I feel like I let these guys down. They did a great job scoring, getting the lead early, and Sánchez pitched a heck of a game. So it’s tough.”
And it all came back to two-strike pitches to Martin and Hernández that they turned on for two-run doubles. Corbin was that close to getting out of the inning unscathed.
“That was actually the first thing I said when I got back in the dugout: We were doing our job, doing a great job of getting ahead and doing what we needed to do and it’s one of those things man,” Gomes said. “They locked it in. We tried to waste a couple pitches. They would either foul it off or not bite at all. They did a good job, tip your cap to them. They had a great approach against Pat. We just weren’t table to put them away.”
“I trust Pat. He’s been unbelievable all year,” Martinez said. “And I would do it again. I really would. He was the guy. I just feel bad for him because he went out there, gave us everything he had, he did. So, and once again, he looked at me in the eye after he came out and says, ‘I’ll be ready tomorrow.’ So that’s the kind of guys we got on this team.”
Martinez said that with the Nats facing elimination Monday night, he would have “all hands on deck.” That includes Corbin.
“Guys just gotta come back,” Corbin said. “We got Max (Scherzer) on the mound tomorrow. This one stinks for everyone in here, personally myself. But, yeah, just gotta come back and try to get a win tomorrow.”