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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats drop both ends of doubleheader with the Pirates

“The whole thing was tough.” - Davey Martinez on the Nats’ losses to the Pirates in yesterday’s doubleheader.

FRONT PAGE - Good Corbin:

“This guy endured a lot last year,” Davey Martinez said of Patrick Corbin this winter, looking back on the 33-year-old left-hander’s (6-19) 2022 run, which saw him finish the fourth year of his 6-year/$140M deal with the club with a 6.31 ERA, a 4.83 FIP, 49 walks (2.89 BB/9), 128 strikeouts (7.55 K/9), and a .321/.374/.513 line against in 31 starts and 152 2⁄3 innings.

It was a third straight rough season for Corbin, after he helped Washington win the World Series in his first with the team in 2019.

But he kept going out there and working to figure things out.

The determination and dedication impressed his manager.

“The fact that he took the ball every five days — I talked to him a lot about doing different things with him, put him in the bullpen maybe, and he wanted the ball. And I appreciate that from him,” Martinez told reporters.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Through five starts this season, before Saturday afternoon’s against Pittsburgh’s Pirates in the nation’s capital, the numbers still weren’t there (5.88 ERA, 5.31 FIP, 2.77 BB/9, 6.58 K/9, .313/.355/.496 line against in 26 IP), but the Nats’ sixth-year skipper said he’s definitely, so far, been a better pitcher.

“I think then he was really attacking the strike zone, really getting ahead,” Martinez said, “... not afraid of throwing his fastballs. I think you’re seeing that same Patrick Corbin right now.

“I think he’s throwing the ball really, really well. The best I’ve seen him in a few years. Also too, we can say whatever we want about Patrick Corbin, our defense is a lot better. We’re playing defense behind him, and that makes a big difference. But he’s really attacking the strike zone, his slider’s a lot better than it was in previous years.

“He’s worked really diligently with [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey to get back on track and some of the mechanical stuff, his arm position and all that stuff.

“He didn’t get the win last time out, but he threw the ball well, gave us six innings, so hopefully he can go out there today and do the same thing.”

The fact he has kept taking the ball, even as he’s finished with the most hits allowed among qualified starters last year, and in earned runs allowed and losses in each of the past two seasons, and never bowed out, with a phantom injury or other excuse, is something Martinez admires, and he said it provided an example for the younger members of the rebooting ballclub.

MLB: Game One-Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

“Two things for me with that,” Martinez said of the idea Corbin could have come up with an injury, taken some time, and spared himself the struggles.

“One is that he’s a competitor. He’s going to take the ball every five days,” Martinez said. “I talked to him a lot last year about maybe, ‘Hey, you want to skip a start? Do you want to be in the bullpen?’

“We were trying everything with him and just having conversations with him. Nope.

“He wanted to go out there. He wanted figure things out. He wanted to take the ball every five days.

“He wanted to show the young kids that this is part of it, and he’s going to deal with it.

“And I think that is the second part: Those young kids admire him because of what he did. He went out there and he took the ball no matter what, he took the ball every five days and that was awesome. Yeah, he could have bailed on us, but he didn’t. He went out there and sucked it up no matter what, and after every start he was in the video room looking to see where he could get better.

“He was working out like he always does in-between starts to get ready for the next start.”

At times, as Martinez has said before, Corbin might have worked too hard, putting pressure on himself to turn it around, but spinning his wheels, and the sixth-year manager said they do limit some of the information they provide the southpaw as the coaching staff attempts to keep the veteran from getting into his own head too much.

“We’ve got to keep a lot of information away from him, because he’ll search,” Martinez told reporters on Saturday. “But like I said, as long as he’s attacking his fastball — his fastball’s live, and he throws strikes, and he keeps the ball down. One of the biggest things is for him to attack in the zone down. Because everything plays off of his fastball going down, the slider, the changeup, everything. So if he keeps the ball down, he’s going to be in great shape.

“He goes about his daily routine about as good as anybody, and he’s ready to pitch every five days and go out there and try to help us win.”

MLB: Game One-Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

BACK PAGE - Nats Drop Both Ends of Doubleheader:

Corbin went just 5 13 innings in the first game of the doubleheader with the Pirates in D.C., giving up seven hits, three runs, and a walk, while striking out two in a 91-pitch outing.

“Early on I thought I was making some decent pitches, just wasn’t getting the calls,” Corbin said after a 6-3 loss to the Bucs in the day half of the doubleheader. “I think got the pitch count up there a little bit in the second, was able to get out of it. But then felt pretty good after that.”

“Patrick threw the ball well,” Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, adding that he had reliever Carl Edwards, Jr. in mind for the part of the Pirates’ lineup going in to the sixth.

“You know, [Corbin] had 27 pitches in the second inning. He was up there in his pitch count.”

The nightcap of the twin-bill was a full-on disaster for the home team.

Martinez’s ballclub ended up giving up 17 hits, seven walks, and 16 earned runs in a 16-1 loss to the Pirates.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

“The whole thing was tough,” the manager said of losing big, going deep with his bullpen after just 3 23 IP from starter Chad Kuhl (7 H, 4 BB, 8 ER).

“We’ve got to put today behind us and come back tomorrow and play good baseball,” he said.

“Hopefully we get some length out of [Sunday starter] Josiah [Gray]and then we’ll go from there.

“Today was just not a good day. The first game was walks [seven]. The second game, fell behind, walks, and the game got out of hand.”

The Nats were a combined 3 for 16 with runners in scoring position in the back-to-back Ls, putting just three in scoring position in the 16-1 loss, after going 2 for 13 with RISP in the 6-3 loss, a disappointing start to the current homestand after taking 4 of 6 on their road trip to Minnesota and New York (NL).

“We hit some balls hard, but we couldn’t string any hits together,” Martinez said. “That was kind of it. We got to come back tomorrow, and win tomorrow. Other than today, we’ve been playing fairly well, so let’s get back to going 1-0, and come back tomorrow and play to win tomorrow.”

[ed. note - “At least Jeter Downs finally played.”]