Pick your stars of this game, and it begins with Howie Kendrick who started the scoring in the first inning with a 3-run blast on his way to a 4 RBI game in this 6-0 shutout behind 7.0 strong innings by Patrick Corbin who had no-hit stuff tonight. Corbin had 8 strikeouts and yielded only 3-hits, and the defense behind him turned two nifty doubleplays including a Web Gem by Anthony Rendon. It was Corbin who shutdown the best offensive team in the league in this “must win” game against the Dodgers who own the best record in the National League.
Manager Dave Martinez went to Kyle Barraclough in the 8th inning and Sean Doolittle for a 4-out appearance to close this win out. On this night, all of the mistakes were made by the Dodgers who could not turn two tailor-made doubleplays that cost them 2-runs plus they had 3 charged errors.
The Nationals put their lead-off men on base in the first three innings, and the game opened with a hustle double by Adam Eaton who would later score on Howie Kendrick‘s three run homer. The Nationals had 9-hits in the game, and Anthony Rendon had two of those hits which were his first since that hit by pitch back in April that landed him on the 10-day IL. Even Michael Taylor had two hits in the game, and Brian Dozier almost got above the Mendoza line.
This game belonged to Patrick Corbin who worked a plan where he combined some Gio into his “plan” as he identified Cody Bellinger as a player he would nibble on — and if he walks — he walks. The lefty all-star would not give in to the hottest hitter in baseball, and he walked him twice. Mission accomplished. Bellinger did not drive in a run or score a run.
“I still think we’re a very good ballclub,” Corbin said. “Things are going to turn around, for sure. The guys in here are too good for us to keep losing. … I still think we’re the best team in our division, we just haven’t played like it.”
In recent history, Corbin has had ownage of the Dodgers. Analytically, he is the guy you would want in a Game #1 of a postseason given his history against these Dodgers due to his 0.59 ERA over his last 5 starts against them yielding only 2 earnies over 30 1/3 innings pitched and a K/9 of 1.29.
Of note, newly minted pitching coach, Paul Menhart, was strategic in his mound visits to give Patrick Corbin a breather at one point and at another came out to give Kyle Barraclough a scouting report on pinch-hitter Alex Verdugo which worked out well. Barraclough pounded Verdugo outside and low in the zone which was his weakest part of the zone. It was a six-pitch battle that Barraclough won as Verdugo pulled a very low outside pitch weakly to second base for an easy out and the second out of the 8th inning. With Doolittle warmed, his manager brought him in to face Max Muncy and Doo struck him out on 3 quick pitches to end the inning.
On the season, this is only the second win in an opening game of a series in a dozen sets overall. The energy level felt different from the first at-bat of this game. There was this sense that the team had a “team only” meeting away from prying eyes we were told by a source it did happen in Milwaukee. While no media member specifically asked if there was a team-only meeting, it was hinted at in the postgame media session in which Martinez admitted he had not been sleeping much. No matter what you think of Martinez professionally, at the end of the day he is still a person, and the weight of the world sometimes seems to be on his shoulders. It was fairly obvious that some type of message was given to the players, and the energy level and attention to detail felt different.
“We had our conversations. They get it,” Martinez said. “We all want to win and they want to win. Today was a testament that, hey, they’re not going to give up. I want them to go out and enjoy the victory tonight and get ready to play tomorrow.”
With Anibal Sanchez on the mound Friday night, we will see if he can “up” his energy level and keep this going.