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Washington Nationals news & notes: Alex Call walks off on Cubs, Nats take 3 of 4 for series W...

Patrick Corbin was at his best, and Alex Call walked off on the Cubbies…

FRONT PAGE - Corbin Keeps Working:

Patrick Corbin got off to a good start in start No. 7 of 2023, in the series finale with the Chicago Cubs in D.C. on Thursday, tossing two quick, scoreless innings on 21 pitches, (and working around a misplay/sun ball which was ruled a hit in the top of the second).

Corbin took the mound in the third with a 3-0 lead, courtesy of a three-run blast by Lane Thomas, who hit a 2-1 cutter just off the middle of the plate outside from Cubs’ righty Jameson Taillon 408 feet to left after back-to-back singles by Joey Meneses and Dominic Smith started the inning.

Corbin was up to 34 pitches after a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 third, with 9 of 10 Cubs’ hitters retired to start the game, and 48 pitches with 12 of 13 set down after another 1-2-3 frame in the top of the fourth.

Two groundouts around a strikeout in an eight-pitch fifth had the lefty at 56 pitches on the day, and another 1-2-3 frame, an eight-pitch inning in the sixth, had him at 64 total, with 18 of 19 set down.

Three more quick outs in a 13-pitch seventh had Corbin up to just 77 pitches total, and he was up to 21 of 22 set down in the outing, with 12 swinging and 12 called strikes on the day.

Corbin’s streak of retired batters ended at 17 with a clean leadoff single through the right side of the infield by Bellinger in the top of the eighth, and a second consecutive hit, a single to left by Patrick Wisdom, brought the Nats’ skipper out to the mound for a pitching change...

Patrick Corbin’s Line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 Ks, 80 P, 57 S, 9/1 GO/FO.


Lane Thomas misplayed a fly at the wall, getting twisted around and missing it when the ball bounced off the fence in front of the Nationals’ bullpen. Bellinger scored on the two-base hit by Trey Mancini off reliever Hunter Harvey, 3-1 Nats.

Miguel Amaya hit a sac fly to left one out later, off Hunter Harvey, to make it a one-run game, 3-2, and Nico Hoerner tied it up with an RBI single through the right side, 3-3.

Kyle Finnegan worked into and out of a jam in the top of the ninth, with the game still tied, giving up a leadoff walk and a double before retiring three straight to strand both runners, then Alex Call hit a first-pitch, walk-off home run in the home-half of the ninth inning, 4-3 Nationals.

“It was probably the best feeling on a field that I’ve ever had,” Call said after the third win in the four-game series with the Cubbies. “I’ve dreamed about that so many times.”

“I knew it would be gone,” the Nats’ skipper said of his reaction to Call’s game-winning shot.

“I was just hoping it stayed fair,” Martinez added. “That was the best thing. He got a hold of it. So I just said, ‘Just keep it fair, get around that pole, and it was awesome.”

As was Corbin’s outing.

“Hey, he’s thrown the ball six out of the last seven times really well,” Martinez said.

“Today was really the Patrick Corbin we’ve seen before. He’s doing awesome. He really is. So if he can continue to do, that keep us in the games, we’ll win some games for him.”

What was different for Corbin in what was inarguably his best outing of the season so far?

Martinez pointed to the lefty’s changeup, which he threw 19% of the time, up from a season average of 5.7%, and with which he picked up 5 of 12 swinging strikes on the day.

“His changeup was awesome,” the manager said. “I think it kind of messed those guys up a little bit because they’re gonna look in. But him throwing the changeup effectively like that, kind of caught them off balance a little bit.”

“I thought everything was good,” Corbin said, as quoted by MASN’s Bobby Blanco.

“Fastball command was good. I used the changeup quite a bit today. Good sliders, caught them off balance, got some quick outs. Just was in rhythm kinda all day with [Riley] Adams and defense made plays behind me.”

BACK PAGE - Jeter Downs To Play Every Day … at Triple-A:

Before Wednesday’s game, the Nationals announced they had recalled right-handed pitcher Jake Irvin from Triple-A Rochester, returned from rehab and reinstated infielder Ildemaro Vargas from the Injured List, and optioned infielder Jeter Downs out to Triple-A Rochester.

Downs, 24, was selected off waivers from the Boston Red Sox this past December, and he was called up from Triple-A on April 11th, with Vargas injured, but he didn’t get into a game until the 29th, when he came on to play late in the second game of the Nats’ doubleheader with Pittsburgh’s Pirates.

Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said on several occasions Downs needed to play every day at this stage in his development, but with CJ Abrams in the lineup, the opportunities weren’t there, and Downs was up in case the club for any reason needed someone to play at short.

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Having a veteran like Vargas coming off the bench, playing sporadically, makes more sense, Martinez said Wednesday, after the veteran returned, and Downs went back to Triple-A.

“Vargy gets it,” Martinez explained. “He understands the situation: He’s got to stay ready. He’s done it before. For him, he’ll stay positive. For someone like Jeter, who is 24 years old, it’s a different story. If one of our middle infielders go down, we view him as the next guy to come up and play in that position. But he’s got to go play. He’s got to go down there. As I talked him today, I said, ‘Take what you learned up here and apply it to your game down there. And get ready.’ I have a saying in my locker and on my desk, and it says, ‘Be so good we can’t ignore you.’ And I said, “I want you to take that to heart, go down there and knock the door down and work your way back up here.”

What did the sixth-year skipper learn about Downs while the infielder was up, working mostly behind the scenes with the big league coaching staff?

“He worked really hard when he was here, and I love that about him,” Martinez said. “My focus when I watched him prepare every day, hit, hit in the cage, take his ground balls, I said, ‘You got to take this moment and do it as you’re playing the game. This is your game right now until something happens and we can get you in there, but you got to focus on doing everything right in batting practice and on the field, when you’re taking ground balls. And he did that.

“I talked to the hitting coaches today about any messages you want me to send with him, and they said he’s got a good idea of what he needs to do. He’s got a lot better, his swing path is way better, now he’s just got to apply it during the game. His fielding, [Third Base and infield coach Gary DiSarcino] said, ‘Hey, he’s got really good feet. He moves to the ball well. He puts himself in a good position to field,’ as we saw, the one game that he played after not playing so long, it was nice to see him catch the ball and throw it across the field with no issues, now he’s just go to do it on a consistent basis.”

Jake Irvin To Start Again?:

Davey Martinez wasn’t ready to commit to 26-year-old righty Jake Irvin getting a second start in the majors after the 2018 4th Round pick made his MLB debut on Wednesday.

“Uh, I’ve got to talk to the big guy [GM Mike Rizzo] about that, right?” Martinez joked, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, after Irvin’s 4 1/3-inning outing in the Nationals’ 2-1 victory over the Cubs.

“I like him, though. I really do. I would love to give him another shot.”

Talking with reporters before the series finale with Chicago in the nation’s capital Thursday morning, the sixth-year skipper said Irvin would be sticking around for a while.

“Yeah, we’re going to keep him around,” Martinez said. “We haven’t decided yet what we’re gonna do for that starter’s spot. But if he’s here till then, he’ll get a chance to start again.”

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

The plan is to keep the rotation lined up as it is right now, with no off days in the near future, but the club is also going to monitor Irvin closely as he gets his between-starts work in over the next few days.

“We’re gonna watch how he bounces back. He’ll throw a bullpen. We’ll get him going. And like I said, look, if he’s here, he’ll start,” Martinez said.

“But I want to make sure that he’s okay. Like I said, this guy’s had some injuries in the past, and I know his last outing yesterday, he threw 82 pitches. The one before he threw 82 pitches. So before that, it was always in the 60s. So we gotta make sure we take care of him.”