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Washington Nationals news & notes: Patrick Corbin big night; Keibert Ruiz keeps going; MacKenzie Gore working way back...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability this weekend in Citi Field...

Corbin Still Working:

With a 3.63 ERA, a 4.97 FIP, five walks, 11 Ks, and a .279/.329/.456 line against in three starts and 17 13 IP following a 10-day breather during which he tried to sort things out and find an answer for what’s ailed him over the last three seasons, Patrick Corbin was in the midst of a stretch as strong as any he’s had over the past few years before he took on New York’s Mets on Saturday night in Citi Field.

“He’s pitched a lot better the last 3-4 starts,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last Wednesday, after Corbin earned his first win since late June and brought an end to the streak of 43-straight games in which no Nationals’ starter had earned a W.

“We’re looking forward to him continuing that till the end of the season and into next year,” Rizzo continued. “And good for him, he’s really worked hard at it, and he’s put a lot of time into it, and obviously has not been an easy couple of seasons for him since his high seasons in 2018 and ‘19, but he’s been a professional about it and takes the ball every five days, and answers all the media questions after the games, never hides, and there’s something to be said about that.

“He’s an extremely proud, professional player, and hopefully he continues to get better.”

Going into the outing against the Mets, his manager said he wanted to see Corbin keep on doing what he’s done in his previous outings.

“Repeat performance from last time, right?” Davey Martinez said in his pregame presser in Flushing, Queens, NY. “He’s been pitching well the last couple outings, so once again it’s about keeping the ball down, mixing his pitches up, and if he does that he’ll have a good outing, so I’m looking forward to watching him pitch today.”

Patrick Corbin got through 7.0 IP on 85 pitches in Citi Field, giving up three hits (one a HR) and just one run, while walking one and striking out five. He threw 71% sinkers (up from his 40.5% average on the season) and got 11 of his 18 total called strikes on his sinker.

He hadn’t allowed a hit since the 3rd when he was lifted after seven strong.

What made Corbins so effective in Citi Field?

“Strike one,” Martinez said. “Strike one. Attacking the hitters. He was awesome today.

“Didn’t really need to use his slider that much. He threw some really good changeups, but his sinker was working tremendously today.”

“We talk a lot about just getting the ball down,” Martinez continued.

“Getting the ball down in the zone. You can pitch up when you need to, but keep the ball down effectively and throw strikes, and he was around the plate all day.”

Screencap via BaseballSavant.com

Corbin told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, he just went with what worked for him, rather than going in with a plan to rely more on his sinker.

“It wasn’t necessarily the plan,” Corbin said. “But I was working both sides of the plate pretty well. I was able to go inside with fastballs a lot, get ahead, allow them to swing.

“I was able to pitch deep in the game, and keep the pitch count down.”

His manager said the recent run of success is a result of a lot of hard work by the pitcher and the Nationals’ staff.

“We worked diligently with him, and he’s doing just exactly what we thought he could do,” the manager said. “A lot of it had to do with just not giving up on him. We stayed with him, he was encouraged by the fact we were not going to give up on him. He’s going to be here for another year or so, so we’ve got to continue to work and continue to get him better. And like I said, when he can throw strikes, and he’s got that confidence going, he’s every bit of really good. He really is. So I was proud of him, like I said, I’ve been proud of him, and I’m glad things are starting to work out for him.”

Gore Again in ‘22?:

MacKenzie Gore, 23, and a 2017 1st Round pick by the Padres (3rd overall), made his MLB debut for San Diego earlier this season, and put up a 4.50 ERA, a 4.12 FIP, 37 walks, 72 Ks, and a .248/.346/.376 line against in 16 games, 13 starts, and 70 IP, before he landed on the IL with inflammation in his left elbow.

In spite of the injury concerns, the Nationals traded for the left-handed starter, as one of five prospects in a six-player package which got the Padres both Juan Soto and Josh Bell.

“People who actually went to medical school have had no concerns with it, so we trust our medical staff,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies the day after their deadline deal with the Padres last month, and the southpaw has made steady progress the last few weeks as he’s worked to try to get back on the mound again before the end of the season.

Gore was throwing a bullpen session in Citi Field on Saturday as manager Davey Martinez spoke to reporters in his pregame presser, so he didn’t have an info on how it went at that point.

But he said if all went well for the lefty, ”... he’s scheduled to throw a sim game his next outing, so we’ll see how he does.”

That will take place on Tuesday in St. Louis, if he comes out of the bullpen feeling good, and still does in his post-throwing work.

“If that goes well,” Martinez said of the planned simulated game, “he’ll throw a bullpen, and he’ll be scheduled for like his normal routine, and hopefully we’ll get him out next week on a rehab assignment.”

The fifth-year skipper said Gore has been hard at work since joining the team, and they have tweaked some things as they try to get him on the mound in competitive action before it’s a wrap on the 2022 campaign.

“He’s been working since the day we got him. He came here, he talked to our trainers, he told him what they’ve been doing as far as his rehab. We suggested some different ideas, and he’s been great,” Martinez explained. “He’s been working with our staff, working with our medical staff, working with our conditioning guys, but he’s been awesome. And like I said, I watched him throw a couple bullpens, and the ball is coming out really well. So as soon as we can get him back out and competing again, because that’s what he really loves to do, he loves to compete, so we’ll get him back out there, and like I said, it would be nice for him to finish off knowing that he’s healthy, and he goes into the winter preparing for next year.”

As for the tweaks?

“He was a high leg kick guy, and glove over the head,” Martinez said, “... and we’re trying to kind of try to shorten that up for him so he can repeat his mechanics. So so far so good, he likes it, he feels more compact, he feels like his head is in the right direction.

“We’ll continue to work with him on that and I think it’s going to help him in the long-run.”

Cruzzy or Cruz-y or Cruzy?:

Nelson Cruz left the series opener in Citi Field in the fifth, after fouling a ball off his leg on the way to a K, which left him 0 for 2 on the night.

“He fouled a ball off the bottom part of the knee, so he’s got a little contusion, so he’s going to be day-to-day,” manager Davey Martinez explained after the 7-3 loss to the New York Mets on Friday.

Washington Nationals v Seattle Mariners Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The skipper provided an update on the 42-year-old, 18-year veteran before the second of three with the Nationals’ NL East rivals.

“We’re going to be cautious,” Martinez said. “He still feels it a little bit.

“So I told him, I said, ‘Let me know how you feel. Get treatment today, and see how you feel. If you can pinch-hit, that would be great. But it’s going to be day-to-day.’”

CÉSAR FINALLY HITS ONE!!!!:

It took him 546 plate appearances, but César Hernández finally, finally, finally hit his first HR of the 2022 campaign in the fifth inning on Sunday, sending a 92 MPH, 2-2 fastball 398 ft to right field in Citi Field for a 2-run shot off Mets’ pitcher Trevor Williams, who hadn’t allowed an earned run in 26+ innings on the mound. Congrats, César. Hernández, of course, hit his career-high 21 home runs last season between Cleveland and Chicago (AL), and his lack of home runs this season has been weighing on the 10-year veteran throughout his first year in the nation’s capital.

His teammates, of course, decided to give Hernández the silent treatment when he’d rounded the bases returned to the dugout, but as always they eventually celebrated it.

It was manager Davey Martinez’s idea.

“I just thought of it right when he hit it — so, we got — I felt bad actually, I really do when I do that, so three pitches in, I told [Bench Coach Tim Bogar] I’ve just got to say something to him, so I went over and started screaming at him, and then the team came over, but man, he’s waited all year for that one, and I’m happy for him. Look, for what it’s worth, he’s leading our team in hits, so I asked him to change roles ... he’s gone out there, he’s accepted it, he’s done well. He’s a veteran guy, and a true professional.”

But it was, Martinez acknowledged, weighing on the veteran infielder.

“Of course. I mean, here’s a guy that hit [21] home runs last year, and we’re in September and he didn’t have any, so it’s good for him to get one, and the way he hit it, it was really impressive.”

Throughout the season though, Hernández’s manager kept encouraging him to keep doing what he was doing knowing eventually he’d hit one out.

“I told him, ‘Keep swinging the bat, [César].’ He’s hit the ball fairly hard all year, and run into some situations where he’s had 2-3 hard-hit balls and nothing to show for it, hit some balls to the warning track, nothing, so I said, ‘Hey, just keep swinging the bat,’ and I’m glad he got one out of the way.”

Keibert Keeps Playing:

Keibert Ruiz, 24, is tied for the second-most games played by a catcher (as a catcher) so far this season (with the A’s Sean Murphy), with 98, behind only the Phillies’ JT Realmuto, who’s played in 108, so after the Nationals’ backstop played all three games against the Athletics, following two days off, and the first two of three in Citi Field, with a day game after a night game, in the finale with the Mets, it was a bit of a surprise to see his name penciled into the starting lineup for Sunday’s game. Turns out, he argued for the opportunity to play again in a sixth straight game.

“He actually came in yesterday, and talked to me about wanting to play today,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters before the game in NY. “And very adamant about it. And I asked him how he was feeling. And I loved it. So I said, ‘You want to play? You’re in there. You deserve that.’ So he said he’ll be ready to go today, so we’ll see how it works out.

“The thing about it is, I’ve had Willson Contreras, who caught every day. I watched [Yadier] Molina catch every day, Pudge [Iván Rodríguez] catch every day. So I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt, and see how he reacts today and we’ll go from there. But I told him, I said, ‘You will get a day off in the next couple days.’ But yeah, I love the fact that he wanted to play today.”

Martinez said he didn’t think there was anything particular about the game which made Ruiz want to play, he just wants to be out there every day.

“I think it’s just in general, when he doesn’t play, he gets upset,” Martinez explained, “... but he understands.

“But yesterday, the fact that he came in yesterday, and really was adamant about wanting to go out there and play and compete today was pretty awesome.

“Usually we just tell him, ‘Hey, you got the day off,’ and he gives you that look.

“When he came in yesterday, I said, he deserves it, so I’m going to give him the opportunity to go out today and play.”

Asked why he felt Ruiz “deserved it” after he said it a second time, Martinez told reporters the catcher has been on a nice run and he wanted to reward him.

“Because he’s been playing so well, he really has. He’s been great. He’s been working hard,” Martinez said. “He’s working hard on the little things we want him to get better at, and he has gotten better, so the fact that he wants to come in, and he wants to play, and he wants to be out there, tells me a lot about him and what he’s playing for, which is his teammates, this organization, he just wants to go out there and do good for us. For the team.”

Ruiz went 3 for 5 with two runs scored and two RBIs in the 7-1 win, finishing the three-game series with the Nationals’ NL East rivals (in which they won two) 4 for 14 with a double.