Corbin among many problems for Nats as Series lead vanishes
WASHINGTON (AP) — Patrick Corbin didn't immediately turn and watch the homer he served up to Houston's Robinson Chirinos in Game 4 of the World Series.
Instead, before eventually spinning around and tugging at the red brim of his cap, the Nationals lefty kept staring straight ahead toward home plate, where his changeup found the middle of the strike zone, as if a batting practice toss for the Astros catcher, instead of its intended location down and away.
This was not what Washington wanted, nor expected, when it guaranteed $140 million over six years last offseason to add Corbin to a staff that already featured All-Stars Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. And this wasn't what the Nationals needed, either: A second consecutive home loss to the Astros, this one by an 8-1 score Saturday night, to leave the Fall Classic tied at two games apiece.
"You make mistakes, you're going to pay," Corbin said about facing Houston's stacked lineup. "They got on me early."
No, this flop was not entirely Corbin's fault, even if he did leave trailing 4-0. Yes, reliever Fernando Rodney gave up Alex Bregman's grand slam in the seventh inning as part of the sort of bullpen meltdown that happened over and over early this season.
And, don't forget, the Nationals' bats stayed virtually silent for the second straight game: They have scored a total of two runs over the past 18 innings.
"We want to forget relatively quickly," said right fielder Adam Eaton, who was 0 for 3. "It's easy to erase."
Still, while Corbin and his sweeping slider did what they were supposed to during the regular season — 14-7, 3.25 ERA, 238 strikeouts in 202 innings — it's this time of year that really matters the most, and he has not produced as promised in his first postseason.
"These are games I want to pitch in," Corbin said Friday, looking ahead to Game 4.
But he hasn't been at his best.
This outing — four runs, seven hits, two walks over six innings — dropped Corbin's postseason record to 1-3 in seven appearances, three as a starter. Get this: He's been so mediocre that Saturday's so-so showing actually lowered his ERA in October to 6.64.
Things were tough for him right from the get-go, with Houston getting four singles in a row in the first inning as a group of visiting fans in the upper deck beyond right field waved their orange towels and chanted "Let's go, Astros!"
José Altuve reached base for the 24th straight postseason game. Michael Brantley got the first of his three hits. Bregman and Yuli Gurriel delivered RBIs.
"We were throwing some sliders," catcher Yan Gomes said, "and they weren't really biting on it."
A double play eventually extricated Corbin from that mess, but more problems arose in the fourth.
That's when he gave Carlos Correa a leadoff walk before missing the mark on a 1-0 pitch to Chirinos, who sent it out to left in a hurry.
"It was," Chirinos summed up, "a bad pitch."
No one was yet warming up in the home bullpen. This was Corbin's game to win or lose. It didn't turn out how Washington hoped.