Patrick Corbin helps Nationals beat Reds again


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CINCINNATI — Patrick Corbin had thrown just 12 pitches, but the start to Sunday’s outing at Great American Ball Park felt all too familiar for the Washington Nationals.

As Corbin reached a dozen pitches, the Cincinnati Reds’ Tyler Stephenson doubled to left field for the Reds’ fourth hit in five at-bats. Joey Votto scored the Reds’ third run on the play, meaning Cincinnati had quickly overcome the Nationals’ early two-run lead.

Pitching coach Jim Hickey arrived for a mound visit. After he left, Corbin looked like a different pitcher as Washington rallied to a 5-4 victory, its third win in a row, to clinch the four-game series.

Corbin allowed five singles and no runs the rest of the way; he exited after six innings. As the 32-year-old left-hander steadied after his early wobbles, Washington took the lead with two runs in the fourth and added on Maikel Franco’s solo homer in the sixth.

“It was obviously a little frustrating there to give up three early,” Corbin said. “They obviously came out there swinging, but I didn’t want to get away from my game just because of that. Just continued to attack the zone and just make quality pitches early, get ahead and get them to start chasing.”

Can the Nats fix Patrick Corbin? It’s a question without an easy answer.

Josh Bell doubled in the first to drive in César Hernández and Lane Thomas to give the Nationals the lead, but that didn’t last long. Just like the New York Mets in Corbin’s previous outing, Cincinnati came out swinging. The Reds’ first five at-bats went this way: single, flyout to the warning track, RBI single, RBI double, RBI double. Washington (21-35) quickly trailed 3-2.

The Reds (18-35) didn’t miss on many swings — they had just one whiff on nine swings in the first inning. Cincinnati also was aggressive on the base paths, stealing three bases in the first three innings.

Despite his struggles, Corbin threw just 25 first-inning pitches. He settled in after that, throwing 40 over the next three innings and allowing just two hits.

“We ran into a little hiccup in the first inning, but after that he was attacking the zone aggressively,” catcher Keibert Ruiz said.

The Nationals tied it in the fourth when Luis García singled to score Yadiel Hernandez. It was García’s fifth RBI in the past two games.

César Hernández then beat out a potential inning-ending double play, allowing Franco to score and put the Nationals back in front. Franco added some insurance with his home run in the sixth. Corbin came back out for the bottom half and worked around a one-out single by Stephenson.

“Patrick settled down, gave us some big innings,” Manager Dave Martinez said. “That last inning, he came out and we needed that inning. Our bullpen was beat up, as you can see.”

Stephenson singled off Erasmo Ramirez in the eighth to score Brandon Drury and get the Reds within one. Drury had reached on an error by reliever Victor Arano, who injured himself on the play.

Arano missed a grounder that went between him and Bell at first base. He fell as he reached back for the ball and stayed on the ground for a few minutes before walking off under his own power with Martinez and head trainer Paul Lessard. He is scheduled to get an MRI exam.

Steve Cishek allowed two runners to reach in the ninth, but Ruiz caught Nick Senzel too far off first base; a throw behind him led to Bell applying the tag while falling down. The play was reviewed but upheld, giving Washington the win.

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Is there a decision on Stephen Strasburg’s next start? No, and Martinez said he won’t make one until after Strasburg throws a bullpen session Monday in Miami. Then he’ll sit down with Strasburg and Hickey. Strasburg again was dominant in his most recent rehab outing Friday, allowing one hit and one walk over six innings while striking out four for Class AAA Rochester.

After a day off Monday, Washington is set to start Joan Adon on Tuesday and Josiah Gray on Wednesday, but the Nationals haven’t decided who will start Thursday. Evan Lee, who made his major league debut Wednesday in a loss at the Mets, is available to start or come out of the bullpen.

Is Alcides Escobar making progress? Martinez said the shortstop is feeling better after he strained his right hamstring Tuesday and was placed on the 10-day injured list the following day.

Martinez said he’s doing strengthening drills and has swung the bat recently. Escobar traveled with the team to Cincinnati and did some running drills on the field Saturday and Sunday; he threw in the outfield Sunday.

When will Dee Strange-Gordon return? The utility man is slated to meet the team Tuesday in Miami. He was placed on the paternity list Friday after the birth of his second child, Dash. Infielder Lucius Fox is likely to be optioned back to Class AAA Rochester.


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