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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats beat Royals in series opener in Kansas City, 12-10; Victor Robles update + more...

Notes and quotes from last night’s series opener in Kansas City...

FRONT PAGE - Corbin vs the Royals:

Patrick Corbin gave up two runs on a two-out, two-run home run in the first inning of his start against Detroit last weekend in the nation’s capital, but the 33-year-old left-hander held the Tigers’ hitters there, and completed five scoreless after the tough start.

Corbin, following the outing, had a streak of seven-straight starts in which he allowed three earned runs or fewer, posting a 3.40 ERA, a 3.91 FIP, four walks, 25 Ks, and a .259/.274/.388 line against in 42 13 IP over that stretch.

“Patrick Corbin was good. Other than the home run, I mean, he threw the ball really, really well,” Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters after a 5-2 win over the Tigers.

“He settled in,” Martinez added. “He started throwing his changeups a little bit more. Slider was good today, slider was really effective. Keeping the ball down. I think that [homer] was probably the only pitch he threw up that got hit, he’s got to keep the ball down.”

Talking about the run the southpaw has been on before last night’s game, Martinez said he thought attacking the zone down in the zone was the key for Corbin in this recent stretch.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

“He’s been attacking the strike zone down, and getting ahead early, finishing guys off, but getting early swings and with balls down,” Martinez said. “I think the key with him is him keeping the balls down. Everything plays off the balls being down, ‘cause it makes his slider and changeup that much better, but he’s done really well, and today hopefully he goes out there and does the same thing. Keeps the ball down, throws strikes, gets early contact, and limit the damage. That’s what he’s been doing so far in his last three or four outings.”

Corbin struggled with his command, but worked around a leadoff walk, and then a two-out hit and a free pass in a 28-pitch first, stranding three runners, after he was spotted 1-0 lead before he took the mound in Kansas City.

An eight-pitch, 1-2-3 second, and 12-pitch, 1-2-3 third, left the left-hander at 48 pitches total, but his streak of seven-straight batters set down ended with a leadoff double by Bobby Witt, Jr., who moved up on a walk to MJ Melendez, and scored on an errant throw to third base by Keibert Ruiz on a double steal attempt by the Royals, 1-1, and 2-1 on a two-out RBI double by Maikel Garcia, who lined a 3-2 changeup up in the zone out to left field.

Witt, Jr. hit a 1-2 curve low in the zone inside 416 feet to left to lead off the Royals’ sixth, after the Nationals put eight runs in the top of the inning to go up 9-3.

Corbin retired the next three batters in order to get through six innings on 92 pitches total, and he came out for the seventh and gave up back-to-back singles and walk, loading them up before he got the first out, on an unproductive pop, on his 108th and final pitch...

Patrick Corbin’s Line: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 108 P, 66 S, 8/1 GO/FO.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Corbin finished the night with 13 swinging strikes overall, eight on his slider, and 19 called strikes, 10 on his sinker, seven on his slider, and one each on his changeup and curve.

Erasmo Ramírez took over and gave up a two-run double to left by Salvador Perez, 9-5 Nats, and he got up 1-2on Witt, Jr. before giving up a three-run homer on a 1-2 cutter up, over the middle of the plate, 9-8. Carl Edwards, Jr. came on to get outs Nos. 2-3.

“Felt really good,” Corbin said after the Nationals’ 12-10 win. “I thought my stuff was good today. Swing and miss on my slider, fastballs in were good, threw fastballs when I needed, left one up for the second run there early on, but overall I thought pretty good. So, you look at the score and see you gave up six, but couldn’t be happier with that, and come away with the win.”


• Lane Thomas started the night with a career-high 21-game on-base streak going, in which he’d hit safely in 19 of 21 games. He did not waste any time extending it, taking a sweeper down the middle from Royals’ starter Jordan Lyles 421 feet to left field in Kauffman Stadium (exit velo = 105.3 MPH) for a leadoff home run in the series opener of this weekend’s three-games set with the Royals, 1-0. It was the 8th home run of the season for Thomas, and the eighth in 23 games and 99 plate appearances in May, after he went 25 games and 107 PAs in the first month-plus this year without hitting one out.

• Luis García doubled to left field on a 2-1 fastball belt-high and over the middle, and then he scored on a double by Joey Meneses, who lined a 2-2 sweeper inside to left field for his 13th two-base hit of the year, tying it up at 2-2 in the top of the sixth. Jeimer Candelario walked in the next matchup, on Jordan Lyle’s 91st pitch, earning the Royals’ starter a mound visit, then Corey Dickerson worked the count full, and hit Lyle’s 98th pitch, a 91 MPH fastball up and in out to right for a 391-foot, 3-run blast, 5-2 Nationals. García got up again, against a new arm and took a first-pitch curve from righty Josh Staumont to left field for a two-out, two-run hit and a 7-2 lead. Meneses’s second hit of the inning was a two-run single to right field, 9-2.

• With the score 9-8 in the Nationals’ favor after seven, García and Meneses struck again, with back-to-back singles in front of Jeimer Candelario, who hit an 0-2 sinker from Jose Cuas to left field for a two-run triple, 11-8, and then 12-8 on an RBI single by Stone Garrett.

García singled in the top of the ninth too, finishing the night 6 for 6 at the plate...

Five of García’s six hits were opposite field knocks too.

“It’s awesome,” Martinez said of the second baseman’s big night. “And that’s something that he’s been really working on,” he added of the opposite field hits, “... is keeping his legs underneath him, and staying on the ball and driving the ball the other way, and he did that tonight.”

“One more hit would have got the record,” Patrick Corbin joked after the win, “... so I don’t know why he didn’t go 7 for 7, but he’s a tough at-bat any time you face him.”


Davey Martinez has been clear in recent weeks that he’s open to using Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey interchangeably in the late innings (or earlier if need be) based on each of the pitcher’s strengths and the matchups on a nightly basis, and he said he’d still do so in the late innings in spite of the fact Harvey blew his fourth save opportunity to spoil things after the Nationals rallied to come back and take the lead late in the series finale with San Diego’s Padres earlier this week.

“It’s going to still be the same that we’ve been doing with those two guys,” Martinez said in advance of the series opener last night in Kansas City.

“Both of those guys are pitching in high-leverage situations, Finnegan came in yesterday in the eighth inning and got some big outs for us against some tough hitters, and then we put the closer in with Harvey and it just didn’t work out.

“But they’re both our back-end guys, and you could also throw [Carl Edwards, Jr.] in there for the seventh or eighth inning as well.”

Martinez tried to stay away from both Finnegan and Harvey last night.

Edwards, Jr., after getting the final two outs in the seventh, gave up a pair of one-out singles around a walk in the eighth, and two of the runners he left on scored after Chad Kuhl got an opportunity to pitch some high-leverage innings, 12-10.

Kuhl came back out in the ninth and retired the side in order to earn his first career save, 12-10 final.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

When he spoke after the game, Martinez said Finnegan and Harvey weren’t the only ones he was staying away from in the opener.

“No, there was quite a few other ones,” he said.

“We used all the guys we thought we would be available today. We got Mason [Thompson] up at the end just in case of an emergency, but we were trying to stay away from him as well.”


Davey Martinez told reporters before the series opener with San Diego earlier this week the status of injured outfielder Victor Robles, who went on the IL with back spasms back on the 8th of May, hadn’t changed.

Before last night’s series opener in Kansas City, the Nationals’ skipper said the 26-year-old outfielder was taking longer than initially expected.

“We thought once he got over the [back] spasms that it could be something different, and sure enough it’s taking a little bit more time,” Martinez explained.

“We’re dealing with a back issue, so we want to be very cautious with him, but he said he felt better today. He’s going to go out there and do some more strengthening stuff and then hopefully soon — I know he’s taken some swings off the tee, very light. Hopefully that will progress.”

Robles was off to a good start this season, before the injury, with a .292/.388/.360 line, four doubles, eight stolen bases, 10 walks, and 14 Ks in 107 plate appearances to start his 7th big league campaign.