PITTSBURGH — Patrick Corbin’s fourth season with the Nationals has not gotten off to the best of beginnings, but he had to be looking forward to his start on Sunday afternoon.
Corbin, who came in on the heels of a tough outing in Atlanta where he allowed six runs in 2 2/3 innings, continued his solid history in the confines of PNC Park, limiting the Pirates to a pair of runs in the Nationals’ 5-3 loss. The lefty yielded three hits and two walks to go with four strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings — his longest outing of the season.
“I’ve always enjoyed coming [to PNC Park],” said Corbin, who entered the series finale 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA and 32 strikeouts over six previous starts in this ballpark. “The results haven’t been there for me [this season], but I feel like I’m trending in the right direction and I thought today was another step forward.”
Of the 12 teams Corbin has faced 10 or more times during his career, his 3.14 ERA in 12 games against the Pirates is second to only his 2.95 mark against the Giants.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez was confident that PNC Park would be the place where Corbin would get his season on track.
“Every time that Patrick has the ball, I’m confident he’s going to give us a good outing,” Martinez said before the game. “I know it’s a little cold out there, but it’s a little cold out there for everybody. I know he’s going to go out there and compete.”
Corbin got some help early on from the bottom of the lineup, as batterymate Riley Adams and Victor Robles each contributed RBI singles in the second inning against Pirates starter José Quintana for a 3-0 lead.
Adams was making his first start since April 13, and his first hit of the season was followed by Robles snapping an 0-for-18 mark to start 2022 with his two-run single.
“I felt good [today], especially in that situation being able to get a runner in and keep the line going,” Adams said. “I’m just happy I could help there.”
Those three runs proved to be all Corbin needed, cruising through the first three innings on an efficient 33 pitches in the longest outing of any Nationals starter since Josh Rogers logged 5 1/3 innings at Atlanta on April 11.
Corbin ran into trouble during the sixth inning, issuing a pair of walks and one hit, giving way to Victor Arano with the bases loaded. The Pirates scratched across two runs on a fielder’s choice and a single, but Arano escaped the jam to close the book on Corbin.
The Nationals had a chance for an insurance run in the seventh on a Maikel Franco double, but a tremendous throw from left fielder Ben Gamel and relay from Diego Castillo cut down Josh Bell at the plate to keep it a 3-2 game.
The Pirates capitalized on this in their half of the inning, as Steve Cishek came in and promptly allowed three runs to score to saddle Corbin with a no-decision.
Despite the bullpen not saving it for him, it was an encouraging performance from Corbin, who didn’t last past the fifth inning in any of his previous two starts this year. Martinez hopes that it’s a sign of things to come for the left-hander.
“I talked about him attacking the zone, and he attacked the zone, getting early swings and soft contact,” Martinez said. “He looked great, and all of a sudden, he went away from that. I liked what I saw up to that point, but we’ve got to get him through that one inning where things just go away for him.”
As for the bullpen, it was the first blown save this season, as the tandem of Cishek and Sean Doolittle had yet to allow a run before the Pirates rallied to take three of four in the series. Cishek noted that he didn’t feel any different after pitching multiple innings on Saturday.
“I actually felt surprisingly well, I just didn’t have the stuff I thought I had yesterday and a lack of execution,” Cishek said. “Falling behind was really what did me in.”