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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Patrick Corbin struggling; Carter Kieboom; Paolo Espino + more...

Highlights from the past weekend’s Zoom calls with the Nationals...

Third Time Through:

Four of the six runs Patrick Corbin allowed in his start against the Atlanta Braves this past weekend came in his final inning of work, when he faced hitters the third time through, a trend that’s persisted as the southpaw has struggled throughout the 2021 campaign, but Corbin didn’t have any answers when he spoke to reporters after a 12-2 loss, and tried to outline the next steps as he tries to sort things out.

“I don’t think it’s mechanical or physical, just kind of not getting results, and I mean, I feel like I’m making a lot of great pitches,” Corbin explained, “... and then ... something spirals out of the way and make one mistake or a couple and it kind of leads to some runs.

“Obviously it’s been frustrating,” he added. “I’ve been saying this over and over and over, but nothing I can do about it now, I just got to continue to try to get better, and all I know how to do that is to come to the field, work on anything I can, and try to move on.”

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Manager Davey Martinez, as he usually does, went home late that night and rewatched the game to see what, if anything, he could pick up that could help his club going forward.

What did he see?

“We all know that he’s a slider guy,” Martinez said, after talking the previous night about the ways Corbin might mix things as he goes through his outing by leaning more on his fastball than his slider.

“When his slider is on, his slider is good, now because of — he’s been so good, I literally last night I sat and watched the replay of the game, and I saw the at bats change with him, and how they were just — I truly believe that they were just waiting for sliders that third time through the order, and they were looking for sliders, and I think now is a point where we have an opportunity to sit down with Corbin and talk to him about maybe attacking more with his fastball, whether it’s early, whether it’s late, but utilizing his fastball more, especially the way that he’s throwing his fastball.”

“His fastball is really live right now,” the skipper continued. “He’s got a lot of movement on it. So we’re going to sit down. I’m going to go out and watch his bullpen, his next time out between starts and just kind of hone in on just maybe changing up a little bit and like I said, attacking more with your fastball, could be early in the count, could be late in the count, but try not throwing your slider as much, because his slider, for me, his slider is still his go-to pitch, but his fastball, because of the movement, and that he can pitch in and out with it, it could be a weapon for him as well, and throw it more. I saw a lot of times yesterday where he was 0-2 and he went to his slider every pitch after that, and that’s something that maybe we need to change up.

“We’re going to dig into a lot of different things with him and hopefully try to get him right his next outing, and if not, continue to work with him and see if we can get something squared away before the end of the season.”

Kieboom Moving Up:

For the third time this month, Davey Martinez lined Carter Kieboom up as his No. 5 hitter in the lineup for the series finale with the Braves on Sunday. He talked afterwards about what he liked about the 23-year-old, 2016 1st Round pick, who went 2 for 5 with singles off of left-handed starter Drew Smyly and reliever Jesse Chavez, and came a great defensive play in a two-on, two-out opportunity in the ninth away from a three-hit game.

“I liked him, especially against the lefty, batting fifth,” Martinez said after the game. “You saw him having good at bats against Smyly all day, he had good at bats all day, and in a situation, especially against left-handed pitching, you might see him more bat up there in the middle of the lineup.”

And what benefits does he see in having Kieboom behind Juan Soto and Josh Bell in the middle of the lineup, and in some RBI spots with the top and middle of the order batters getting on in front of him?

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

“He’s going to get opportunities to drive in runs,” Martinez told reporters.

“And he’s up there you know and like you said in big moments at times and knowing that he’s got a chance to drive in runs. Today, he handled it well.”

Kieboom talked after the game about trying to stay focused, and keep a good approach in all of his at bats, whether runners are on in front of him or not, and whether it’s in a higher-leverage situation or his first at bat with no one on.

“It’s the same approach for me honestly, as really it is from at bats basically, 2-3-4, the other ones,” Kieboom said. “Just control the madness up there. I think any time you’re in charge, and they’re having to pitch and make strong pitches against you, I think it puts more pressure on them, so just being aggressive and controlling all the madness you can at the plate.”

The Book On Espino:

Going into the All-Star break, Paolo Espino had a 2.89 ERA on the year, but in seven games and six starts since, the 34-year-old right-hander, who debuted in the majors back in 2017, but didn’t get back to the big leagues again until 2020, and has earned a spot in the club’s rotation in D.C. this season, has put up a 6.18 ERA in 27 23 IP, over which opposing hitters have put up a .310/.350/.646 line against him.

After he gave up eight hits, three of them home runs, and five runs total in just 4 IP over the weekend against Atlanta, Espino was asked if it feels like the rest of the league has adjusted to him at this point, necessitating some adjustments of his own?

“Yeah, definitely,” Espino said. “This is a game of adjustments, yeah, the more I pitch, the more they can see, so I also need to work on stuff to change and not be predictable. I’m working on that. But today, I think it was all about the mistakes.

MLB: AUG 15 Braves at Nationals Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“I think if I command the ball and I throw the ball where I want, I think I’m going to keep having success.”

“I think you know the home runs he gave up there, all the balls were up,” Martinez said of the three long balls hit off Espino.

“For me, he’s got to pitch down in the zone. On occasion he can go up when he’s ahead in the count, but for me, I think he has to throw the ball down.

“I know he threw a changeup to Freddie [Freeman],” on one of the three home runs. “It was up, and then a breaking ball up to [Austin] Riley, and both got hit really hard.

“He’s got to continue to pitch down, when he pitches down, his fastball is sneaky, because you’ve got to worry about the curveball as well, but his fastball down is very sneaky.”