The Washington Post
Patrick Corbin turns in a strong start to help the Nationals salvage their finale in Pittsburgh.
NATIONALS 6, PIRATES 2
pittsburgh — For a second straight start, Patrick Corbin resembled the dependable pitcher he was in 2019. It’s an upswing the Washington Nationals — and Corbin himself — are relieved to see heading into the final weeks of a season that, with a few exceptions, has been well below his standard.
The left-hander went seven innings, permitting two runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts, and Washington belted three homers, including two during a three-run fourth, to salvage the finale of a three-game series, 6-2, against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park.
“I thought overall I threw strikes, was in the zone, got a bunch of groundballs and was able put up some zeros there late,” said Corbin, whose ERA fell to 5.98. “Just the results have been better. I’ve been saying I’ve been feeling pretty good as of late, and it just comes down to command, getting ahead of guys, and I thought that was the big key today.”
Corbin (8-14) won for the first time in nearly a month as the Nationals snapped a three-game skid. After allowing leadoff hits in each of the first three innings, Corbin retired the last 13 hitters he faced. He recorded all of his strikeouts during that stretch and finished at 101 pitches.
It was the second game in a row Corbin had thrown tripledigit pitches. He yielded three runs over seven innings on 114 pitches in a 4-3 win over the New York Mets on Sept. 6. Before that performance, Corbin had allowed at least four earned runs in eight of nine starts.
He has established a comfort level with catcher Alex Avila, who hit his first homer of the season to knot the score at 2 in the fourth. Avila has caught Corbin in his past two starts; he provides a veteran’s perspective with the Nationals working prospects Riley Adams and Keibert Ruiz into the mix.
“They’re both on the same page always,” Manager Dave Martinez said of Corbin and Avila. “I wanted Alex to catch him a couple times just to get him back on track. I don’t know if I’m going to do it again. Who knows — I might want some of these younger guys to catch him, but we’ll see.”
Lane Thomas had the key hit later in the fourth inning, blasting a three-run homer to right to give the Nationals a 5-2 lead.
The bullpen — specifically Kyle Finnegan — chipped in as well. The right-hander got the final five outs after Mason Thompson entered for Corbin and labored in the eighth. Martinez had elected not to use Finnegan in each of the past three games to give the Nationals’ preferred closer option some needed rest.
Well before Finnegan stepped onto the mound, Luis García had given the Nationals a 1- 0 lead with a home run to lead off the second inning, lacing starter Bryse Wilson’s 1- 0 fastball over the wall in center. It was the fifth homer of the season for García and came after he smoothly gathered consecutive grounders to end the first.
His clean fielding followed a conversation that the 21-year-old second baseman and bench coach Tim Bogar had after he committed an error in the sixth inning Saturday that allowed two runs to score in a 10-7 loss.
“When we got here today, Tim and I talked a lot about the defensive plays,” García said in Spanish through an interpreter. “I always guide myself through him. He has a lot of experience, and he’s helped me a lot. He has a lot of good insight on the game, and I always listen. That’s one thing — I always listen.”
García was the Nationals’ minor league defensive player of the year in 2019 but has had his share of fielding travails, which Martinez has deemed part of the learning process. He has six errors in 41 starts at second base and two in seven at shortstop.
One of the niftiest sequences in the game involved García collecting the ball on a flip from shortstop Alcides Escobar’s glove, stepping on second for a force out and throwing to first to complete a double play and end the third inning after Pittsburgh had grabbed a 2-1 lead.
Then in the sixth, García slid to his right, backhanded a sharply hit grounder off the bat of Jacob Stallings and delivered a strike across his body to first baseman Josh Bell to complete a third consecutive perfect inning for Corbin.
“He played well,” Martinez said of García. “He jump-started us with the home run, but his defense was really good today.”