Phillies vs. Nationals: Offense stymied by Patrick Corbin as Phils miss out on sweep

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No sweep for Phillies, but they'll take a series win on the road originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

When you looked at Washington Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin’s numbers coming into Thursday’s start, you couldn’t help but think that the Phillies had a pretty good chance to pull off their first three-game, road-series sweep since April 13-15, 2018.

Corbin entered the start, his seventh of the season, with an ERA of 7.36 and a WHIP of 1.534, and he’d given up 9.5 hits, 3.1 homers and 4.3 walks per nine innings.

Sweep city, right?

Not so fast.

Corbin, who passed on a chance to pitch for the Phillies when he signed a six-year, $140 million contract with the Nationals before the 2019 season, turned everything around Thursday and pitched his best game of the season to prevent the Phillies from posting that elusive three-game road sweep.

The Phillies lost the game, 5-1.

Zach Eflin was tagged for a pair of two-run homers with two outs in the first inning and the Phillies did nothing against Corbin and the Nats’ bullpen after eking out a run on a double-steal in the first inning.

Phillies hitters struck out 11 times and were 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

Corbin threw a first-pitch strike to 20 of the 26 hitters he faced. He scattered five hits over seven innings of one-run ball, walked none and struck out nine. He had entered the game striking out just 6.1 batters per nine.

“His velocity is back,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said after the loss. “It came back his last start. That was the biggest difference in him. On the pregame show (with broadcaster Scott Franzke), I said I’m not sure which one we’re going to get, the one who’s throwing 89 (mph) or the one who’s throwing 91 to 94. 

“When it gets to 94 consistently, everything gets better. His slider gets better, his changeup gets better, and that’s what he did today.”

Eflin, who had allowed two or fewer runs in five of his seven starts coming into the game, struck out nine batters, including six in a row at one point.

But he paid a price for two mistakes in the first inning, both of which ended up over the wall on two-run homers by Kyle Schwarber and Josh Bell. Not only was Eflin upset with himself for missing his spot on the two pitches, he didn’t like the two-out walk to Starlin Castro that preceded the hanging slider to Bell.

Eflin had given up just four homers and three walks in 45 1/3 innings this season before his spotty first inning.

“It was pretty uncharacteristic for me,” he said. “I hate giving up walks and they just took advantage of it.”

The Phillies began to stir a little after Corbin exited the game. They got the first two runners on base in the eighth against reliever Tanner Rainey but came away empty as Rainey and Daniel Hudson combined to get the next three hitters, Jean Segura, Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins, on a fly ball, a strikeout and a groundout.

End of threat.

End of modest two-game winning streak.

Despite the loss, the Phillies were able to take some solace in the fact that they won two of three in Washington for their first win of a three-game series on the road since the final days of the 2019 season.

The Phillies are 20-18, second place in the NL East, and 7-12 on the road. They have three games remaining on this trip, starting Friday night against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, Florida.

“No question, we’re happy we won the series,” Eflin said. “I wish we could have gotten one today and I could have thrown better in the first inning and kept us in the game, but we’re happy with the series win.”

Vince Velasquez (1-0, 4.18) will get the start Friday night against the Blue Jays. Lefty Steven Matz, who the Phillies know well from his time with the Mets, will start for the Jays. He is 5-2 with a 4.86 ERA.

Aaron Nola will pitch Saturday night and Chase Anderson on Sunday afternoon.

The Phillies are unsure whether they will have J.T. Realmuto for the series. More on him here.

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