Monday, May 20, 2024

Improved Corbin provides relief to ‘pen

WASHINGTON — As the Nationals hosted the winter-feeling series opener against the Phillies on Friday at Nationals Park, Patrick Corbin stepped onto the rubber once more to get the sixth inning started.

The 34-year-old Corbin gave the Nationals their longest outing of the young season in a 4-0 loss to rival Philadelphia. He threw 93 pitches in six-plus innings before Jordan Weems was called from the bullpen.

“I’ve been with Patrick for a very long time, and he’s our guy,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Regardless of what happens, he’s going to give everything for as long as he can — and I know that.”

Corbin struck out six while allowing four runs on nine hits and three walks, all while keeping his pitch count to 93 (65 strikes). Despite giving up three runs in the second inning, he followed with four scoreless frames to give his team a chance to make a comeback. Corbin faced the top of the familiar Phillies’ lineup four times.

“Throughout the game, each at-bat’s a little bit different,” said Corbin. “You try to find different ways to get them out, different looks. Maybe see what’s working that day. But they’ve seen me a bunch, so you do try to find different ways.

“I think, for the most part, we did all right. They were very aggressive early — got some base hits, but also got some early outs. I think I made a couple of pitches when I needed to in big situations, but we weren’t able to put up any runs.”

Corbin improved from his season debut last Saturday against the Reds, when he threw 69 pitches and exited after allowing four runs off seven hits with two strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings.

“It’s a good lineup over there, and they got three [runs] in the second,” Corbin said. “I’m just trying to go as deep as I can. I’m trying to keep us in the game.”

Seeing Corbin on the mound so deep in a game is no surprise. He was relied on to provide longevity to the bullpen last season and led the Nats with 180 innings pitched. The deepest he pitched in a game in 2023 was seven innings, which he did three times.

On Friday, the southpaw relied heavily on his slider, sinker and fastball, but he also put his cutter and changeup to work. Corbin did have to make a few adjustments as the temperature continued to drop — from 48 degrees at first pitch — throughout the night. It was only the 25th game at Nationals Park with a first-pitch temperature under 50 degrees.

“I thought some off speeds — my slider and some cutters … weren’t coming off as consistently as I’d like,” Corbin said. “But it’s the same for everybody, so you just try to find different ways to work around it.”

Seven games into the season, giving the bullpen the opportunity to stay fresh just a little longer to start off the series is welcome. The Nationals are scheduled to play two more games against the Phillies before traveling west to take on the Giants in a three-game series. Their next day off is next Thursday.

Weems, Tanner Rainey and Matt Barnes were called from the bullpen and helped keep the Phillies to four runs.

“Our bullpen has been out there quite a bit,” Martinez said. “We stayed away from guys we want to keep pretty fresh, and [we’ll] get them into a game tomorrow.”

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