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Washington Nationals’ rotation woes; bullpen workload + more

Nationals’ starters need to go deeper into their outings to spare the bullpen and help keep the club in games…

Washington Nationals v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Patrick Corbin’s latest disastrous (23 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 6 ER) start extended his seven-outing winless streak, over which the recently-turned 33-year-old lefty has put up a 9.73 ERA, a 5.66 FIP, and a .388/.438/.605 line against in 28 23 IP, and it had Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez (finally?) questioning what to do next, two and a half years into Corbin’s struggles on the mound.

Corbin didn’t have answers either, telling reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Bobby Blanco, “I think just a combination of a lot of things ... I think a lot of things can be looked at.”

“Physically, I feel good, which has been really frustrating,” he added.

“I’ll continue to do what I’ve done to prepare and be ready and talk to as many people as I can here to try to get back to where I was.”

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

“Well, the last few outings have been basically the same, really,” Martinez explained. “He can’t finish hitters, his location, his misses. I feel bad. I mean he’s going out there and believe me he’s not trying to miss his location. He’s trying to get outs and he’s just not finishing hitters.”

“All I can do is just pat him — pat him on the shoulder and tell him, ‘Hey, this will turn, and just keep your head up,’ and that’s all we can do,” Martinez said at another point.

But asked about a potential move to the bullpen for Corbin, where he could sort things out and not cost the regular relievers extra, difficult work every five days, Martinez stopped well short of saying it’s what they’ll do, but did not dismiss the idea.

“We’ll have some discussions. But I’m going to talk to Patrick and just see where he’s at, you know, mentally,” the fifth-year skipper told reporters in Philadelphia. “He says all the right things. I talk to him. He’s working on different things. So we’ll see where we’re at in the next few days.”

He wasn’t ready to commit to a plan of action when he spoke in advance of the opener with the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field on Monday either, noting an off-day on Thursday, when it would be Corbin’s turn to start again, gives them time to figure things out.

“We’ll try to get through this next three days and then ... we’ll reset Thursday,” Martinez said.

“We’ll come up with a plan moving forward. So, like I said, our focus is trying to go 1-0 today and go from there. But we’ve got to try to get through these three days, and hopefully, like I said, our starting pitchers go a little deeper in these games.”

He said much the same after Cory Abbott went just 3 23 in the finale with the Phillies on Sunday.

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

“I mean, I look at it right now, like I said, we’re constantly playing catch-up, right?” he asked rhetorically, “so it all starts, and I’ve said this before, I’ve said this for years, it really does start with starting pitching. If our starting pitchers can keep us in the ballgames, we tend to do pretty good, we really do, so we got to have better starting pitching, and like I said, we got to start putting the ball in play, hitting the ball with guys on base, and just driving in some runs.”

He did, however, acknowledge it’s been tough and a stress on the bullpen to have to keep covering so many innings.

“It’s been tough. Trying to space these guys out, not trying to use them too much. Keeping guys fresh as much as we can. But hopefully today, Aníbal [Sánchez is] pitching, and he can give us a good 5-6 innings and we can go from there.”

Sánchez ended up giving them five innings (in which he gave up 4 ER), sparing the bullpen a bit, but he left the game in the sixth, with the club trailing 3-1, and a runner he left on made it 4-1 after six in what ended up a 6-3 loss.

“We tried to stretch him out for another inning knowing our bullpen has been taxed,” Martinez said after the sixth loss in a row for his club. “[Sànchez] gave us five strong innings, we just couldn’t get that sixth inning from him.”

The first three runs scored on Sánchez came on two home runs, after Nats’ pitchers gave up a combined 14 home runs in four consecutive losses on the road in Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, where the Nationals were swept over the weekend.

Washington Nationals v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

“Just pitch location,” Martinez said of the home runs off Sánchez last night. “A lot of it has to do with getting behind hitters, and having to throw strikes. We got to start working ahead of hitters, we’ve been doing that really well, and put guys out early in counts.

“When Anibal does that, he’s really good. He can mix things up and get guys off-balance.

“When he’s behind, he’s got to get more in the strike zone and he knows that.”