None of that mattered Sunday afternoon, when the Nationals posted a 3-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds to avoid a series sweep at National Park. After six innings by Corbin in which he allowed two runs (one earned) and struck out five, Washington (43-85) finally snapped his streak, which long ago surpassed the record of 35 set by the 1949 Washington Senators, and was running. the minds of the Nationals afterwards.
“Everyone knows about the record here that was broken today, but it’s not something we’re proud of,” Corbin said. “We’ve been pitching well as a team; a lot of guys have been coming out and giving us a chance.”
Five pitches into Sunday’s game, it looked like Corbin was in line for another short outing: He allowed back-to-back singles to Jonathan India and Alejo Lopez. After a fielding error by right fielder Joey Meneses allowed India to advance to third, Corbin was in a bind. Kyle Farmer hit a field pick to score India, but Corbin escaped without further damage.
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Stuart Fairchild then hit a solo home run to lead off the second inning, hitting a bullpen cart well past the wall in center field, to give the Reds (50-76) a 2-0 lead.
But after the Nationals scored twice in the fourth, Washington jumped out in front when Ildemaro Vargas hit a solo home run in the fifth. Corbin retired the full-back in the sixth to stay in position for the win. He retired 15 of the last 17 batters he faced and threw just 82 pitches. He could have gone longer, but manager Dave Martinez turned to the bullpen with a day off Monday. Hunter Harvey, Carl Edwards Jr. and Kyle Finnegan managed the final three innings, with Finnegan recording his eighth save.
Corbin had his victory. Previous Nationals starter to get one: Josiah Gray in a 3-2 win at Philadelphia on July 6.
“We were fully aware here of what was going on,” Finnegan said of the winless streak. “I think the bullpen has lost some of those along the way. … Getting Pat to win today and ending that was amazing.”
Corbin improved to 5-17. Any decent start provides a glimmer of hope that he’s turned the corner, that he’s going to be something closer to the pitcher Washington wanted him to be when he signed a six-year, $140 million deal in December 2018.
He may never get back to that point, but he’s looked better in three starts since Martinez skipped his turn in the rotation. Corbin said he doesn’t feel any different physically but he is a little more relaxed mentally. Sunday’s exit, coupled with just enough offense and a tight bullpen, ended a streak the Nationals wanted no part of.
“For all of us, a win is a win,” Martinez said. “Patrick said it best: It’s a team win. He wanted to go out there and compete, and that’s what we talk about doing every day. And he did it today.”
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How did the Nationals get on the board? They scored twice in the fourth off Reds left-hander Nick Lodolo, who lasted seven innings. After Lodolo faced the minimum for three, César Hernández doubled to open the fourth. Lodolo hit back-to-back batters (Meneses and Luke Voit) to load the bases, then walked Nelson Cruz on a pitch that apparently everyone, including Cruz, seemed to think was strike three.
Riley Adams singled to center field with two outs to tie the score, but third base coach Gary DiSarcina waved to Voit in hopes of taking a 3-2 lead. Voit, certainly not the fastest runner on the Nationals, was eliminated by two steps, even after an off-the-line throw carried catcher Austin Romine away from the plate.
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Why did Luis García take the day off? Martinez wanted the 22-year-old second baseman back in action after he rehabbed from a groin injury. Garcia played three rehab games with Class AAA Rochester and then started the first two games of this series.
Before Sunday’s game, Garcia was taking ground balls and working double-play shifts with rookie shortstop CJ Abrams. Garcia has done well at the plate, he has a .288 batting average, but his 13 errors at shortstop left a lot to be desired, leading to a switch to second when Abrams arrived.