Nationals’ New-Look Bullpen Learning:
Following a solid 6 1⁄3-inning outing by Patrick Corbin in the series opener in Milwaukee, WI on Friday night, Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez turned to 23-year-old righty Mason Thompson, who fell behind the first batter he faced behind 3-0, but recovered to get a grounder to third for out No. 2 of the Brewers’ seventh, and a pop-up to short for out No. 3.
Martinez tried to get more out of the sinker-balling reliever, but when Thompson walked the first batter in the bottom of the eighth, the fourth-year manager went to the bullpen again.
Andres Machado came on and and got two outs with one pitch on a 6-3 DP, and a grounder to third on a 95 MPH, 0-1 heater made it three outs on three pitches for the 28-year-old, who is in his second run in the big leagues after he debuted in the majors with Kansas City in 2017 but didn’t pitch in the so-called “Show” again until earlier this season.
Kyle Finnegan finished things off with a scoreless ninth, and the Nationals had their third W in a row after sweeping a two-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays this week in D.C.
Martinez talked after the first of three with the Brewers about the contributions he has been getting from the young arms in the Nationals’ bullpen.
“I can honestly see these guys getting some confidence and attacking the strike zone,” the manager said. “That’s the biggest thing. I talk about this all the time with the bullpen, you know how much I really like when they come in and they walk the first hitter of an inning. But they’ve been coming in, Machado came in today, and just threw strikes, got a big ground ball for a double play, and then he attacked the strike zone, which is awesome.
“Mason [Thompson], who came in too, he fell behind, but he came back and got two big outs for us, you know in the inning. I wanted to run him out there — it was a good matchup for [Lorenzo] Cain, and he walked the leadoff hitter, so we went and got him. But I like what I’m seeing, I like that we’re having these conversations with him every day about attacking the strike zone, especially with Mason, his ball, man, he’s got a heavy ball, when he can throw them for strikes, it moves all over the place. He’s tough, tough to hit, big guy that throws two-seamers down in the zone to righties, if he can spot the ball to lefties, he’s going to be good. And I tell him all the time, don’t be afraid to use your slider either, his slider is pretty good, but we’re going to keep working with him, but he’s getting big outs for us, and I love watching him going out there and competing.”
Corbin Snaps Winless Streak; Remains Confident:
Patrick Corbin took the mound on Friday night winless in his previous six starts, over which he’d put up a 7.83 ERA, 10 walks, 27 Ks, and a .301/.347/.588 line against in 33 1⁄3 IP, but after he snapped that streak, he talked to reporters about remaining confident in spite of his struggles overall in the third year of his 6-year/$140M deal in D.C.
Corbin said he and the Nationals’ catchers and coaches have put in a lot of hard work trying to get him back to where he was in 2019 after a rough 2020 campaign, and another up and down year this season.
“I feel we’re always talking, trying to improve, trying to get better, but it’s definitely, it feels good to go out there, pitch well, and have some good results,” Corbin said.
“i’ve been saying it for a while now that I feel good, I feel like the ball is coming out, maybe making a couple mistakes late and when I am, paying for it, but I thought tonight we got in a good rhythm back there, and it was fun, felt good, and looking forward to continuing it, and trying to finish this season strong.”
How has he handled the tough season mentally, and in terms of his confidence? Has it been an issue?
“Not really, confidence isn’t — I’m confident in myself,” Corbin explained. “I know I’ve had success, and all I can do is continue to work hard and do what I can control, and try to go out there every fifth day and whether I give up a homer, a loss, this or that, when the outcomes aren’t great, you’ve got to move on, you can’t do anything about it, and that’s pretty much how I’ve always been.”
Thomas’s Time To Shine:
Lane Thomas was 5 for 48 (.104/.259/.125) with a double, 10 walks, and 17 Ks in 32 games and 58 PAs in the majors with the St. Louis Cardinals this season, after putting up an ugly .111/.200/.250 line in 18 games and 40 PAs in 2020’s 60-game campaign.
Getting traded to Washington, Thomas said, after he drove in two runs for the Nationals with a triple on Friday night, has been a welcome change for the 25-year-old outfielder.
“I think it’s always good just playing in front of some new faces and new people that haven’t seen me play that much, you know, it gives you a little motivation to impress them and gain some more opportunities,” Thomas said.
He played mostly center on his way up, but until Saturday’s start in center field, he’d played left field with the Nationals, but he said he’s stayed sharp in different outfield spots with his work in batting practice.
“I think it’s just important to get your work in in BP, those live reps, because you’re right I’ve definitely played more center field coming up than I have the corners, but yeah, I think it’s just important to get those live reads and do it at game speed, so when you get in the game it’s definitely going to speed up a little bit and you’ve got to be ready for it.”
He’s impressed at the plate, on the basepaths, and in the field so far, and Thomas talked to reporters on Saturday night about being part of a young team with a number of players on the roster who are trying to establish themselves at the major league level.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s good. Everything is moving in the right direction,” he said. “Obviously, they got rid of some guys who could play pretty well, but I think you have a lot of young guys who can play and have a plus side, so I think that’s good for everybody. It boosts our confidence because we can go out and definitely win some games for the next month and half and hopefully do that for a while.”