Nationals 6, Angels 4: Small ball and hustle with a shutdown bullpen does the job

The Washington Nationals had just two extra-base hits Monday night to open their three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels, but it did the job, as pitching held both Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout to a combined 0-for-8 clip. The Nats had 12 singles and a lot of hustle that gave them enough to push over six runs to win 6-4.

Nats move to 4-7 on the season and Patrick Corbin picks up the win despite another lackluster outing from the left-hander.

You think getting Trout on a near double play grounder and Ohtani on a strikeout would have cemented a zero in that first frame for Corbin, but nope, Los Angeles would strike first though — in the first inning, as Corbin then served up a single to Hunter Renfroe while issuing his second walk of the inning to load the bases, and Luis Rengifo came through with a two-run single to give the Halos an early 2-0 lead. All of that with two outs.

Corbin did not even have to contend with Anthony Rendon who scratched himself from this game minutes before first pitch. Apparently Rendon had an ouchie on his shoulder from a hit-by-pitch from the day before.

Washington gained one back in the second inning, as CJ Abrams smoked an RBI single into right, but Los Angeles responded with two more of their own in the bottom of the third to make it a 4-1 game — Hunter Renfroe led off the inning by belting a solo shot just over Victor Robles‘ glove, and Gio Urshela followed up a Rengifo single with an RBI double.

The Nats began their comeback from there, however, as Michael Chavis led off the fourth inning with a walk, and Washington later strung together four straight two-out singles from Alex Call, Lane Thomas, and Jeimer Candelario to rally for a three-run frame to knot it up at 4-4.

Washington then added the winning run in the fifth, as Abrams — with runners on the corners and one away after a double from Keibert Ruiz and a single from Victor Robles — grounded into a near double play, but Abrams just barely beat out the throw that would have made it a double play to drive in the run, as the Nats had a 5-4 lead. Hustle on this day was huge.

The Nats played hard and smart for Tim Bogar who subbed in as manager in this one as Dave Martinez was under the weather.

A pair of singles from Dominic Smith and Chavis put two on with one out in the seventh, and Robles grounded into a near inning-ending double play, but Robles beat out the throw. It was then Smith made the heads-up play by running home from second practically unnoticed to make it a 6-4 game, and Washington had an additional insurance run thanks to high-IQ baserunning and hustle from Smith. The hustle part has been a recurring theme, and it just is a part of doing the little things.

“It’s so much fun. I feel like that’s how we can build a winning culture. That’s something that’s going to be our team identity. We’ll probably have a couple guys in this lineup who will hit 20 home runs, but for the most part, we’re going to have to manufacture runs. And this is the way we’re going to have to do it.”

Dom Smith said to the media

Bogar did not allow Corbin to take the hill for the sixth inning despite throwing only five pitches to complete a lightening quick bottom of the fifth inning and a total pitch count of 86.

Jim Hickey and I talked about sending [Corbin] back out there, but if I was going to run him back out there and take him out after one guy got on, then you’re bringing in a reliever without a clean inning. I just didn’t think it was the right thing to do.”

— Bogar said to the media after the win

You kind of felt if Martinez was managing that he certainly would have sent Corbin out there for another frame — because that’s what Davey usually has done. Smart decision by Bogar. The lefty starter finished his day by allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out just three. What started out poorly ended on a high note. Corbin’s ERA even dropped a smidge from 8.00 to 7.71 for his three starts this season.

The big news was that the bullpen allowed no hits and just a walk and a HBP through four innings, capturing the win for Washington. Mason Thompson and Hunter Harvey pieced together the sixth with Harvey brought in just to face Trout with two outs in the sixth. Another brilliant move by Bogar. And Harvey K’d the former MVP. Harvey stayed in and also hurled a hitless seventh, and Carl Edwards Jr. and Kyle Finnegan (save) tagged along a perfect eighth and ninth that fittingly ended with a Trout strikeout to complete this one in dramatic style with Ohtani left on-deck.

With the win, the Nats look ahead to the rest of the games in this three-game weekday slate.

Tuesday @ 9:38 p.m. ET: RHP Josiah Gray vs. RHP Shohei Ohtani

Wednesday @ 4:07 p.m. ET: LHP MacKenzie Gore vs. TBD

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