Patrick Corbin pitched his best game of the young season on Sunday. After a tight battle between Corbin and Shane Bieber, the Nationals put together several late rallies to break a four game losing streak. With timely hitting and some late-inning heroics, the Nationals outplayed the Guardians to a final score of 7-6 and avoided a 3-game sweep against Josh Bell and co.
Corbin has seriously struggled in recent years and looked rather hittable in his first 3 starts this year. Against the Guardians he stepped up his game. His sinker/slider combination kept hitters off-balance and his command was the best it's been all year. He kept ahead of hitters and only went 3-0 in the count once, finishing the day with zero walks or HBPs. He also limited the Guardians to a handful of hard-hit balls, none of which were elevated. Corbin allowed just 5 hits over 6 innings and that's pretty much everything the Nationals can ask of their veteran lefty.
Unfortunately, this is still Patrick Corbin and the Nationals we're talking about. Corbin looked solid but allowed four runs and handed a 1-run deficit off to the bullpen. After his first two perfect frames and before his final three scoreless frames came a difficult 30-pitch 3rd inning when the Nationals defense crumbled and conceded an early 2-0 lead.
A tweener fly ball from Mike Zunino landed just in between Lane Thomas and Victor Robles for a double, opening the door for the Guardians to rally on weak contact and defensive mistakes. CJ Abrams and Jeimer Candelario were tagged with errors that extended the inning, which only ended after Josh Bell rocketed a well-placed fastball from Patrick Corbin into the corner to extend his team's lead.
The Nationals battled well and tallied nine hits against Guardians ace Shane Bieber including a Jeimer Candelario solo home run and two leadoff doubles. On paper the Nationals had the better of the matchup between Corbin and Bieber but a combination of bad sequencing, batting with runners in scoring position, and crucial defensive errors kept the Guardians in the lead heading into the late innings.
Speaking of the late innings, that's when things got weird on Sunday afternoon. Hobie Harris and Tim Herrin emerged from their respective bullpens and each allowed two runs in the seventh, and Nick Sandlin entered with a 1-run lead in the 8th inning for the Guardians. After a Stone Garrett single and a CJ Abrams walk (wow!), the Nationals had Victor Robles bunt two runners over and saw Lane Thomas hit a shallow fly ball to score Stone Garrett from 3rd base. The run was confirmed only after an extremely lengthy replay review to overturn the initial out call at home plate. Mike Zunino was determined to have blocked the plate, and the Nationals tied the score at 6-6.
After that tight challenge call and a pitching change, the Nationals continued to rally when Joey Meneses knocked a go-ahead RBI single to give the Nationals a 7-6 lead heading into the 9th inning. It was an impressive comeback for the Nationals against a typically nasty Guardians bullpen that shut the Nats down in the first two games of the series. It was a great all-around game for the Nationals who finally gave their home crowd something to cheer for.
Nationals Game Review
What Went Right?
Home Runs! Jeimer Candelario homered for his second of three hits against Shane Bieber in a monster 4-hit game for the Nats third baseman, and Luis Garcia smashed his second home run of the season and of the series to spark the Nationals comeback against the Guardians bullpen.
Stone Garrett finally got a start after about a week on the bench, and awarded his manager with an immediate impact. He blasted a double in his first at-bat and led off the 8th with a hard-hit single before coming around to score the tying run. If another great showing at the plate doesn't earn Garrett more playing time, surely nothing will.
More quick takeaways from a solid win for the Nats:
- Corbin being efficient and completing six solid innings
- Victor Robles walked, laid down a bunt hit and a crucial sacrifice bunt to halt a skid of recent zeroes.
- Lane Thomas and Alex Call made consecutive web gems in the 9th inning to help Kyle Finnegan earn his third save. Thomas got down for a clutch sliding catch and Call, a savvy defensive replacement for Stone Garrett, crashed into the wall to make a grab in foul territory
- Lane Thomas knocked two doubles and looked comfortable in the leadoff spot
- Joey Meneses with another 2-hit game and a clutch go-ahead RBI, he's starting to get it going at the plate.
- Mason Thompson continues his excellent work out of the 'pen
What Went Wrong?
Defense, Defense, Defense. Many things went right for the Nationals but because of three key errors they required a gutsy comeback for a one-run victory. CJ Abrams picked up his fourth error on a play he ought to be making, and dropped a catchable throw from Patrick Corbin who was given an error later on. Abrams is still searching for consistency at shortstop.
Hobie Harris allowed a leadoff walk and back-to-back hits before settling down, turning a one-run deficit into a three-run deficit and sinking the Nationals win probability below ten percent in the seventh inning. Allowing six runs in total to the Guardians who only drew one walk and hit zero home runs is not great, and may be a bit unlucky for the Nationals. The team needs to find better defensive efficiency and put up more zeroes, because they won't comeback from these kinds of holes in most games.
Washington Nationals Record: 5-11
When is the next Nationals game?
The Nationals have an off-day before welcoming the Baltimore Orioles to DC on Tuesday at 7:05 PM. Josiah Gray is expected to make his fourth start of the season and will look to avoid taking his fourth loss of the season as he faces off against Dean Kremer. The two-game set against the O's will be followed by another off-day so the team will have plenty of rest before heading on the road to Minneapolis on the weekend.