FRONT PAGE: Corbin Not Quite There
Patrick Corbin threw 85 pitches (48 for strikes) in three innings on Opening Day, giving up seven hits, three walks, and four runs, two of them earned, in a 7-2 loss to Atlanta.
It was not exactly what the southpaw or his manager were hoping for as Corbin tries to bounce back following three straight rough seasons in Washington’s rotation.
“He’s got to pound the strike zone,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez said after the season opener last week. “We talked about that, he did a good job of that in spring. He fell behind.
“He had a lot of pitches in three innings, so, but he’s 3-2, 3-2, unfortunate breaks with some of the hits they got early, but still and all he’s got to attack the strike zone.”
Martinez said the difference for Corbin between his relatively positive outings this spring and his less-than-stellar start to the season was his ability to throw strikes.
“He just fell behind. He just fell behind,” Martinez repeated.
“When he’s ahead, he’s a much different guy. So we’ve got to get him ahead and get him to finish. We talk a lot about 3-4 pitches or less, that’s who he is.”
Corbin was on the same page as his manager when he spoke about his struggles with some relatively weak hits and an elevated pitch count hurting him.
“You try to get weak contact,” Corbin said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“Sometimes they do hit it at people, sometimes they don’t. I also think getting into better counts, trying to finish guys, could’ve helped at least keep the pitch count down.”
Start No. 2 for Corbin began with a scoreless first, in which he worked around a one-out hit, but Tampa Bay put a run on the board in the second, with back-to-back singles to start the top of the inning, a base-loading one-out hit, and sac fly giving the Rays a 1-0 lead after one and a half. Corbin was up to 30 pitches total after two innings of work.
It was tied at 1-1 when Corbin took the mound in the third, and gave up a leadoff single on an 0-1 sinker down the middle to Yandy Diaz. Wander Franco stepped in next and hit a 2-2 sinker up high inside out to left for a 396-foot, two-run home run, 3-1 Rays.
Bullpen is getting a lot of work this series pic.twitter.com/PSf7qMeyid— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 5, 2023
It was a 3-2 game after four, and Corbin, coming off a seven-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth, came back out in the fifth and retired the side in order again, giving him nine straight outs after the 2-run home run by Franco in the third.
Corbin added two more outs to the streak of retired batters, but Harold Ramirez went down for a 1-1 slider with two out and hit one just over the wall in center for a solo shot, his first of the season, and a 4-2 Rays’ lead in the sixth.
Never fear, Barreled Ramírez is here! pic.twitter.com/RxtsC3GTU0— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 5, 2023
Victor Robles lost a two-out fly to center field in the sun two at-bats later, and another run scored on what should have been out No. 3, 5-2 Rays, and 6-2 on an RBI double by Jose Siri.
Patrick Corbin’s Line: 6.0 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 3 Ks, 2 HRs, 92 P, 63 S, 5/3 GO/FO.
Corbin threw 48% sliders in the outing, up from 35% in the opener, 39% sinkers, down from 51%, and mixed in 10% changeups, and 3% four-seamers, generating 11 swinging strikes, 10 on his slider, and 14 called strikes, nine on his sinker.
“He was doing well,” Martinez said of the streak of 11-straight outings for Corbin in the start.
“Big part of it is keeping everything down. Slider was good, changeup was good, fastball was down, in and out, but for the most part everything was down in the zone, and when he does that he can pitch, he can give us six innings, six strong innings.
“The missed ball in the sun created a problem. And if you look at it, the game was pretty good till that point and then it got out of hand.”
Thaddeus Ward gave up a hit, two walks, and a run in the seventh, 7-2 Rays.
Stone Garrett, in his first start of the season after getting called up in the aftermath of the injury to Corey Dickerson, walked in his first plate appearance, taking a two-out free pass which extended the inning for Victor Robles, who stepped in against Rays’ left-hander Shane McLanahan and lined a 1-2 changeup into the left-center gap for an RBI double (1), which scored Garrett from first to tie things up in the second after the visitors jumped out to an early lead, 1-1.
With the Rays up 3-1 in the fourth, Joey Meneses doubled to center field, took third on a hit by Keibert Ruiz, and scored on an RBI single by Michael Chavis, 3-2, and a Stone Garrett hit on an 0-2 fastball up in the zone loaded the bases with no one out.
Victor Robles sent a fly out to right field for out No. 1, failing to bring the runner in from third base, and CJ Abrams and Lane Thomas struck out with the bases loaded, still 3-2 Rays.
Manager Davey Martinez pointed to this sequence as a pivotal one after the eventual 7-2 loss for the Nationals.
“We had an opportunity right there to blow the game open,” Martinez said. “Come back, bases loaded, no outs, and we couldn’t get a run. We’ve got to start driving in runs.”
What did he see in those ABs?
“Just big, you know ... Vic got big,” he explained. “3-1, he got big, and then we just [weren’t] aggressive.
“Lane takes a fastball 0-0, right there, he’s a fastball hitter, I mean, you got to be aggressive in those situations and swing at strikes.”
BACK PAGE - Finnegan Again:
“We’ll look at some stuff, some video, see if he’s doing anything different,” manager Davey Martinez said after Nationals’ closer Kyle Finnegan blew a one-run lead and gave up three home runs and five runs total in his second rough outing in three appearances so far this season.
“It’s just location for him is not good right now,” Martinez explained. “He’s leaving balls out over the plate, just can’t get the ball in, so we’ll take a look at some stuff for him.”
“He threw some pitches that were close,” the skipper told reporters after his club bounced back from an early deficit on Tuesday and got to the ninth up 6-5 only to lose the game, “... but then you get behind, you got good hitters, like I said, he was just missing. Everything he did was just a miss, too many balls right out over the plate.”
Finnegan took it hard.
“We did what we needed to do to win, and I came up short tonight,” Finnegan said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after the loss.
“That’s what hurts the most. You want to win the game. I’ve got to be better.”
Finnegan threw just 14 of 24 pitches for strikes in the outing.
“He was not happy, I’ll be honest with you,” Martinez said when asked how the closer had reacted. “He was pissed. It’s a conversation I need to have with him tomorrow.
“He’s got to bounce back, he’s a big part of our bullpen, so, we’ll get him straightened out.”
The sixth-year skipper said he did not consider pulling Finnegan earlier than he did, before he turned to Hobie Harris to finish up the top of the inning.
“No, I’m not going to pull him. He’s our closer. And we’ve got to get him right, right?” Martinez asked rhetorically.
“I was going to give him 25 pitches to just try to get out of it. It’s just they were on everything.”
“They were on everything I threw tonight,” Finnegan agreed indirectly. “I tried my best to get it by them and just couldn’t do it.”
Luis García vs LHPs:
With back-to-back lefty starters for the Rays in the second and third games of this week’s three-game series in Nationals Park, Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez went with his right-hand swinging utility man Michael Chavis at second in back-to-back games, raising questions about Luis García, the 23-year-old in his fourth big league season, and if there was perhaps something wrong with their everyday second baseman which was keeping him out of the lineup.
Nope. Just matchup considerations.
Four seasons into his big league career, García has a .239/.252/.333 line against vs. left-handed pitching (versus a .269/.298/.418 career line vs RHPs), and just two of his 15 HRs thus far in his career off southpaws.
Rays’ lefty Shane McClanahan, three seasons and 54 starts into his own big league career, began the afternoon with reverse splits (.258/.305/.368 vs LHBs, .211.266.342 vs RHBs), but Martinez still went with the right-handed swinging Chavis at second base.
“We got a run of just left-handed pitchers,” Martinez explained before yesterday’s game of keeping García out of the starting lineup in two straight. “I kind of want to pick my spots with [García]. He swung the bat, came in yesterday, pinch hit, hit the ball well, but this guy we’re facing today, he’s tough. Tough on lefties. [CJ] Abrams [a left-handed hitter as well] stays in there a little bit better on sliders, so he’s going to play short today, and [Chavis] swung the bat well yesterday, so I want to get him back out there again and give him a couple days. But Luis will be back in there.”
At some point, the manager acknowledged, he will let García test himself against some of the tougher lefties in the league, but Martinez said he did not feel he had to do so at this point in the new season.
“That day will come,” he said. “Just it’s early. I want to keep all these guys engaged and get them in there. Stone [Garrett] will DH today, get him some at-bats against this guy.
“But [García] is definitely going to play his share against left-handed pitchers.”