- - Thursday, April 18, 2019

Nationals manager Dave Martinez isn’t dialing 911 when he picks up the dugout phone to call the team’s bullpen. But with opponents regularly stealing games from the team’s ineffective relievers, who would blame him if he was?

The Nationals, who came into Thursday’s game against the San Francisco Giants with baseball’s lowest-ranked bullpen, again saw their lead shrink in the eighth and ninth innings before holding on for a 4-2 win, thanks in part to a huge outing by lefty starter Patrick Corbin.

Corbin allowed just one run on two hits with nine strikeouts in 72/3 innings.

“I still felt strong at the end. I definitely wanted to be out there,” Corbin said, aware that his bullpen has been setting more fires than putting them out of late.

It was Corbin’s first win with the Nationals and the first home series win this season for his new team.

The Nationals may want to send a thank-you note to home plate umpire Ryan Additon, who ejected Giants manager Bruce Bochy and first baseman Brandon Belt for arguing strike calls. The Giants struck out 11 times — seven times on called third strikes from Additon, who is a former minor league pitcher.

“(Corbin) was hitting the corners and we were getting the calls,” Nationals catcher Yan Gomes said.

Additon’s generous strike zone and Corbin’s control were opportunities the Nationals had to exploit, Gomes said.

“When (Corbin) throws a strike on both sides of the plate he is tough,” Martinez said. “Today he was really, really good. We couldn’t put this game away early. We have to start driving those runs in.”

The Nationals, now 9-8, entered Thursday with a Major League-worst bullpen ERA mark of 8.04. Washington’s ERA in the eighth is even worse at 11.81.

Compare that to the eighth inning ERA of the Phillies, a team Washington may be chasing this summer: a league-best 1.06.

But the much-maligned bullpen only gave up one of two runs surrendered Thursday, with the Giants finally getting to Corbin in the eighth when Erik Kratz trimmed the margin to 4-1 with an RBI double.

Corbin (1-0) got a nice ovation as he left the mound with two outs. Reliever Kyle Barraclough faced pinch-hitter Buster Posey and retired him on a grounder for the third out. The Giants added another run in the ninth before closer Sean Doolittle got the final three outs.

Corbin also had a sacrifice bunt in the sixth and made a nice play to catch a throw from first baseman Ryan Zimmerman for an out in the third. “He’s an unbelievable athlete,” Martinez said.

“He’s been fun to watch. He stepped up big time today,” Doolittle said of Corbin, who signed as a free agent after pitching last season for Arizona.

On Wednesday, Washington reliever Austen Williams gave up four runs, and two homers, in the ninth as the Nationals hung on for 9-6 win and Martinez was forced to turn to Doolittle to get the last two outs.

“I was good to go. I felt fine today,” said Doolittle, who threw 18 pitches Wednesday and 20 on Thursday.

The Nationals offense came in spurts.

Gomes walked with the bases loaded to give the Nationals a 4-0 lead in the fifth. Wilmer Difo hit a solo homer in the fourth that gave Washington a 3-0 lead.

Juan Soto had an RBI double to give the Nationals a 2-0 advantage in the third. His liner scored Anthony Rendon, whose double extended his hitting streak to a league-best 16 games.

Ryan Zimmerman had an RBI double for a 1-0 lead in the first inning.

The Nationals begin a series Friday in Miami with right-hander Anibal Sanchez (0-1, 4.86) slated to face lefty Caleb Smith (1-0, 2.65) of the Marlins.

“We have a long stretch coming up here,” Corbin said. “Hopefully, the starters can continue to go out there and do their job and help this team out.”

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