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Martinez gambles, but Corbin falters: Nats fall 10-4 in Game 3

washington nationalsRemember how Washington Nationals manager got his team past the wild-card round and into a 1-1 tie in the NLDS by using starters in relief?

Yeah. Didn’t work on Sunday at Nats Park in Game 3.

Patrick Corbin, called in to pitch the sixth, and ostensibly more, with a 2-1 lead, got exactly two outs while getting tagged for six runs, and now Washington is on the brink after losing 10-4 to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

LA hung a seven-spot on the Nats in that fateful sixth, all the damage coming with two outs.

Russell Martin, batting with two on, and down in the count 0-2, worked his way to a 2-2 count, then took a slightly hanging slider to left-center to score two and put the Dodgers up for the first time all night.

Chris Taylor walked, and then Kike Hernandez extended the lead with another two-run double that came after he had fallen behind in the count 0-2.

Max Muncy was intentionally walked, and then Justin Turner, yes, again, down in the count 0-2, worked back to 3-2, then took reliever Wander Suero over the wall in left-center to make it 8-2 LA.

The Nats were able to scratch across two runs in the bottom of the sixth to get back to slam range, but Dodgers relievers set Washington down in order from there, around a Russell Martin two-run homer in the ninth off Hunter Strickland that put the game out of reach.

Anibal Sanchez went five innings for Washington, striking out nine, walking two, and allowing a run on two hits, before being lifted for a pinch-hitter after throwing 87 pitches.

That one will be second-guessed.

The decision to go to Corbin, who lost Game 1 in LA on Thursday, maybe not so much, except for the result.

The Nats, famously, had the worst bullpen in MLB in 2019, and Martinez has been trying to work around it, using Stephen Strasburg for three scoreless innings in the 4-3 wild-card win over Milwaukee last week, then using ace Max Scherzer for a 1-2-3 eighth in the 4-2 NLDS Game 2 win in LA on Friday.

All is not lost for Washington, who have Scherzer ready to go in Game 4, against Dodgers fourth starter Rich Hill.

Win that one to keep the season alive, and Martinez can go back to Strasburg in LA in Game 5 on Wednesday, presumably against Game 1 winner Walker Buehler.

Martinez was trying to steal Game 3 with the game plan to get five from Sanchez and an inning or two from Corbin.

It backfired. That’s baseball.

A cruel mistress.

Story by Chris Graham

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