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Washington Nationals news & notes: Patrick Corbin, CJ Abrams lead Nats in 6-2 win over Pirates...

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ series opening win over the Pirates...

In back-to-back losses in his two previous starts, before taking on Pittsburgh’s Pirates last night in PNC Park, Patrick Corbin gave up a total of 14 runs on 17 hits, walking two batters, striking out seven, and posting a .425/.444/.800 line against in nine innings.

Eight of the 14 runs came in his four-inning, 83-pitch outing against the NY Mets last week in D.C., which saw the southpaw surrender three home runs.

“Up, balls were up,” Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said of Corbin struggling in the start. “All the balls they hit out were up. He’s got to get the ball down. He’s got to pitch down.

“They fouled off some tough pitches, but all in all, the balls they hit were up. So he’s got to come back and try to get the ball down next outing.”

“Overall, everything just seemed a little bit off today,” Corbin said of his start against the Mets, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “I felt all right, but it seemed like any pitch today, they hit hard.”

Going up against the Pirates last night, Corbin gave his club (which needed some length out of their starter, with their bullpen beleaguered), 6 23 strong, over which he gave up five hits, one walk, and two earned runs, while striking out eight, his second-highest K total in 2023.

Corbin’s slider was the key. He picked up 14 of 18 swinging strikes and 9 of 16 called strikes with the pitch, which he threw 52% of the time in PNC, up from a season-average of 34.4% before last night.

“He was good,” Martinez said after a 6-2 win powered by two homers by CJ Abrams, RBIs from Joey Meneses and Luis García, and a solo shot by Dom Smith. “[Corbin] kept the ball down, mixed his pitches in. But we talk about that all the time, and I know [Pitching coach Jim] Hickey had a conversation with him after his last outing, just got to keep the ball down and he was very effective, so we needed a big start from him today, and he gave it to us.”

And yes, Martinez told reporters, the slider was really effective.

“It was sharp. It was sharp tonight. When everything is working down, the slider plays.”

Why was it so effective in the pitcher’s mind?

“Throwing it in the zone, locating my fastball, stayed on the corners tonight,” Corbin said, as quoted by MASN’s Bobby Blanco.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

“When you get ahead, we could throw a couple down there and hopefully you get a swing.

“They’re an aggressive team and sometimes if you don’t make your pitches early, they can hop on it or jump on you and get some hits early.

“So that was just a big thing, location tonight, especially early in the count.”

“That was money,” Abrams said of Corbin’s start. “Quick innings, in and out, not on defense very long, so hats off to him.”

The shortstop’s manager was equally effusive in his praise of Abrams’ effort in a two-HR, 3-RBI game, which followed a day off after Abrams’ tweaked his knee recently.

“He stayed through the ball,” Martinez said after Abrams hit a 2-2 changeup up from Pirates’ starter Andre Jackson in the third for a two-run shot, and a 96.5 MPH, 3-2 fastball from Bucs’ reliever Cody Bolton for a solo shot in the seventh.

“We were trying to get the ball up a little bit, hit a changeup that was up and then a fastball middle-in.

“But he’s swinging the bat really well, he’s been playing really well, so I’m glad he’s okay, and like I said, when he’s leading off for us he’s been the catalyst.”

“Just looking for my pitch,” Abrams said, “... anything in the middle of the plate, and I got two good pitches to hit, and I hit them out, didn’t miss them.”

Abrams pulled both home runs to the right side, for a 417-foot blast the first time and a 383-foot blast for No. 2 on the night and No. 18 this season. He’s hit 16 of 18 homers this season to the right of center field.

“He gets himself ready early,” Martinez said of Abrams’ pull-side power. “He’s able to make adjustments to the ball in. And that’s been the big difference. We’re trying really hard just to — one, for him to stay on plane, stay on top of the baseball, and two, is to make sure his foot’s down early and on time, he’s done that and that’s where you’re seeing all this power come from.”

“Just kind of more direct to the ball,” Abrams said of hitting for power to the pull side.

“Shorter swing. Simplify. For sure.”