No relief: Corbin goes from starting to ‘pen and Nats lose

Patrick Corbin hadn’t pitched in relief in a major league game since one such outing in 2017. His return to that role did not go well. Not well at all.

The left-handed starter was pressed into bullpen duty as part of Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez’s plan to overcome a shaky group of relievers. Corbin wound up being charged with six runs while getting just two outs in the sixth inning of a 10-4 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in their NL Division Series on Sunday night.

The setback put Washington behind 2-1 in the best-of-five series, with Game 4 on Monday. Corbin has taken the loss in both of LA’s wins, including as the starter in Game 1.

“Just stinks,” Corbin said in a monotone voice. “Feel like I let these guys down.”

He was out in the home ‘pen at Nationals Park from the start of the evening, occasionally pacing around the unfamiliar surroundings. When he was called upon to protect a 2-1 lead at the start of the sixth, things went OK at first.

Sure, Corbin allowed a leadoff single to Cody Bellinger, who had been 0 for 8 in the series. But the lefty struck out the next two hitters.

And that’s when everything unraveled for Corbin, who went 14-7 with a 3.25 ERA in the first season of his $140 million, six-year deal with the Nationals.

“He’s just coming at you,” said David Freese, who singled as a pinch hitter in the sixth. “I don’t mind lefties, but he’s tough. You have to check yourself when you face him, for sure.”

Five hitters in a row all reached against Corbin, including a pair on two-run doubles by Russell Martin and pinch-hitter Kiké Hernández.

Those came on what Corbin called “two terrible pitches.”

Each of the run-scoring hits by the Dodgers in that inning came with two outs and two strikes.

It’s the first time in major league history that a team put up a total of seven two-out, two strike runs — reliever Wander Suero was charged with the seventh — in one inning.

“We tried to waste a couple pitches,” Nationals catcher Yan Gomes said, “and they would either foul it off or not bite at all.”

Now Washington has to hope that Max Scherzer can come through in Game 4, when the three-time Cy Young Award winner faces Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill.

With an NL-worst bullpen ERA, Martinez has been trying to cover up that deficiency by using his starters in relief.

Stephen Strasburg followed Scherzer in the NL wild-card victory over visiting Milwaukee on Tuesday; Scherzer followed Strasburg in the Game 2 NLDS victory at LA on Friday.

The tactic flopped Sunday.

“I trust Pat. He’s been unbelievable all year. And I would do it again. I really would,” Martinez said. “He was the guy. I just feel bad for him, because he went out there, gave us everything he had. He did. And once again, he looked at me in the eye after he came out and says, ‘I’ll be ready tomorrow.’ So that’s the kind of guys we got on this team.”


AP freelance writer Harvey Valentine contributed to this report.


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