Sliders from Corbin and McGowin hold Braves to two runs, save bullpen

The Nationals fell 2-1 to the Braves Saturday night, but Patrick Corbin pitched a solid seven innings, allowing only two runs, and Kyle McGowin arrived and put up two shutout frames.

Atlanta’s offense generated nine hits on the night. But only one of those was an extra-base hit, a double by Adam Duvall in the fourth. He came around to score on a bloop single by Ozzie Albies that lifted the Braves to a 2-0 lead.

The Braves have hit a ton of homers the last few weeks. Limiting that club to eight singles and a double is good thing in some respects. Manager Davey Martinez said the nine hits allowed came because the Braves are good offensively, but also because Corbin is in and around the strike zone a lot.

“He is just trying to get ahead of hitters,” Martinez said. “Obviously, the hits didn’t really cause much damage. I kind of like that. I remember often saying you don’t have to strike everybody out. Just get ahead of hitters and we got good defense. If you go seven innings and give up two runs and give us a chance to win, that’s awesome.”

Corbin was not thrilled about the nine hits allowed. Albies and Marcell Ozuna generated the two run-scoring knocks for the Braves offense. Freddie Freeman had a single to begin the fifth, but that was wiped out on a big pitch from Corbin that produced a key 6-4-3 double play on the next Ozuna swing.

“It’s not ideal,” Corbin said of the hits allowed. “I thought I made some pitches. That Albies pitch I thought I located where I wanted to and it kind of flopped in there for a hit. I thought I made a good slider to Freddie that he kind of stuck his bat out. These guys are really good hitters. They put the bat on the ball. I think this year they’re not striking out as much as I’ve seen in the past.

“They are hot right now, one through nine. They are a dangerous team. To hold them to two runs, you’d think we were going to be in the game, and we will take that.”

Part of Corbin’s drive was to find a way to get through seven innings. Even getting past the century mark in pitches thrown, Corbin was determined to save the bullpen a bit after Friday’s 12-inning, nearly five-hour marathon win.

“I mentioned something after the sixth that I felt good enough to go back out there,” Corbin said. “This whole year has been tough, starters coming in not really built up to where they usually are. We knew the bullpen was going to have to be used a lot more. I think the starters now are getting up there to where they’re able to go deeper and deeper, but I think our bullpen has done a great job for us all year.”

McGowin-Throwing-Blue-Sidebar.jpgCase in point was McGowin. The right-hander tossed a pair of scoreless, 1-2-3 innings in relief, highlighted by four strikeouts. Being a slider-heavy pitcher himself, Corbin respects what McGowin’s slider can do to a hitter’s psyche.

“You see some of the swings that he is getting, he’s throwing sliders in the zone that are freezing them for strikes, so that’s good to see,” Corbin said. “And his wipeout slider, a lot of swing and miss. These guys, they know what he’s throwing. It makes that fastball a lot better when he’s throwing that slider for a strike. Obviously, he has a swing-and-miss slider and then able to locate a fastball. It’s good to see him come up, throw strikes.”

The season has been a struggle for the Nationals, there is no doubt. But when Martinez sees that he has Corbin starting that day, he feels very comfortable that the left-hander will give them a great shot to come out on top.

“It’s a great feeling knowing that he’s starting the game for you and he’s going to keep us in the game,” Martinez said. “That’s who he is, that’s what he does. Tonight was no different. He knew our bullpen was hurt a little bit. He went out there, felt good, gave us seven innings, which was perfect. We just didn’t score any runs for him today, but I love when he’s out there every five days. I know we have a chance to win.”

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