WASHINGTON — Patrick Corbin caused a Nationals disaster.
Pitching in relief in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, Corbin allowed six earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. The Washington lefty, who started Game 1 of the NLDS, took over for starter Anibal Sanchez in the top of the sixth with his team leading 2-1 over the Los Angeles Dodgers. After allowing a leadoff single to Cody Bellinger, Corbin recorded consecutive strikeouts against Corey Seager and A.J. Pollock. But with two outs, the Dodgers put together a ferocious rally.
Pinch-hitter David Freese kept the inning alive with single, then veteran catcher Russell Martin followed with a two-run double. After pinch-hitter Chris Taylor drew a walk, Kike Hernandez plated two more runs with another double. Corbin intentionally walked Max Muncy, who’d gone deep in his previous at-bat, and then was lifted in favor of righty Wander Suero. The first hitter Suero faced, Justin Turner, blasted a three-run homer, giving L.A. an 8-2 lead.
“Just couldn’t seem to get that third out there,” said Corbin, who gave way to Suero after throwing 35 pitches and ended up taking the loss in a 10-4 defeat that puts Washington in a 2-1 deficit in the best-of-five series. “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. It just stinks. I feel like I let these guys down. They did a great job scoring, getting the lead early, and Sanchez pitched a heck of a game. So it’s tough.”
“We were doing our job,” added catcher Yan Gomes, “doing a great job of getting ahead and doing what we needed to do, and it’s one of those things, man. 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 able to put them away.”
Corbin’s appearance marked the third time in four games this postseason that manager Davey Martinez has deployed one of his starters in relief. In Tuesday’s 4-3 wild-card win over the Milwaukee Brewers, Stephen Strasburg threw three scoreless innings out of the pen and earned the victory. In Game 2 of the NLDS on Friday, Max Scherzer worked the eighth inning and helped the Nats to a 4-2 win that evened up the series at one game apiece. Though Corbin didn’t fare as well as his fellow starters, Martinez has no regrets about the decision.
“I trust Pat,” said Martinez. “He’s been unbelievable all year. 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.”
In his Game 1 start, Corbin went six innings, allowing one earned run on three hits. His outing in Game 3 marked the first time in over two years that he worked in relief. On September 29, 2017, he pitched out of the bullpen for the Arizona Diamondbacks, his lone relief outing that season. In 2016, Corbin’s 36 appearances included 12 games out of the bullpen.
“I feel like I got warmed up fairly quick,” said the 30-year old southpaw. “Felt pretty good coming in, just couldn’t get that third out there. I was in here doing what I would normally do to get loose, and I feel like I got loose fairly quick, and came in and was able to throw everything. The later the inning got — the breaking ball, it was there early, and [I] just kind of left a couple up there.”
Washington’s propensity to use starters in relief stems from a regular season in which the Nats won 93 games despite an unreliable bullpen that posted a 5.66 ERA, the worst in the majors. Entering Friday’s game against the Dodgers, the Nats bullpen had worked to a 5.00 ERA in the postseason.