Patrick Corbin turned in one of his strongest outings of the season on Sunday against the Houston Astros, while his counterpart Justin Verlander labored even as he took a no-hit bid into the fifth inning.
But it was Verlander (5-1), who left with a lead after five, while the still winless Corbin (0-6) and the Nats’ defense faltered just enough in that crucial inning to open the door for an 8-0 Houston win in the series finale at Nationals Park.
Corbin allowed just three hits and a walk through four, but wound up working into the seventh, with three home runs accounting for half his hits and all five of his earned runs.
Corbin’s walk to Chas McCormick with one out in the fifth was just his second of the game, but it made him quite unhappy with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez, who had also called three walks that Verlander vehemently disagreed with.
The lefty’s quick pickoff move seemed to work in his favor when he caught McCormick leaning toward second and fired to Josh Bell behind him, but Bell misfired his throw, pulling second baseman César Hernández off the bag.
Instead sliding into an out, McCormick slid in easily behind Hernández, who swept his glove after McCormick briefly over-slid the bag and reached back with his left hand.
Second base umpire Jeremy Riggs ruled the runner safe.
The Nats appealed the call, and the crew reviewed the video on the headsets while we watched at home.
Did Hernández touch McCormick’s finger a millimeter before or as it made contact with the bag?
The lengthy review must have been inconclusive; the call was upheld.
Corbin fired three sinkers to Martin Maldonado. The first two were low in the zone, one a ball, one a strike. The third didn’t sink quite enough and stayed up a few inches over the plate, belt high.
Maldonado swung, then took two steps to watch the ball settle two rows above the Houston bullpen in left field before settling into his home-run trot.
It was 2-0 Astros, but it might as well have been 20-0 the way the Nats were flailing at Verlander’s assortment of curves, change-ups, sliders, and straight-up heat, ranging in speed from the mid 70s to the high 90s.
Verlander struck out five, including Nelson Cruz in the first and Yadiel Hernández in the first and fifth.
Riley Adams and Alcides Escobar tallied the Nats’ first two hits against Verlander, back-to-back in the fifth, but Adams never got off second base.
Verlander kept up the mid-90’s heat to induce a pop-up from César Hernández and a sharp grounder to first by Juan Soto.
Corbin gave up another homer in the sixth to Yuli Gurriel and in the seventh to McCormick, before Austin Voth loaded the bases, walked in a run, and gave up another when one came in on a bases-loaded double play.
The Nats managed just two hits and a walk against three Houston relievers while the Astros weren’t done teeing off on the Nats’ bullpen until the ninth, when Jose Altuve homered off Paulo Espino for the final run in the 8-0 win.