- - Friday, October 4, 2019

LOS ANGELES — Patrick Corbin said one of the reasons he signed last winter with Washington was to get a chance to pitch postseason baseball, which the Nationals had taken part in four times since 2012.

“That was a big reason why I wanted to come here, to have an opportunity to pitch in games like this, big games,” the lefthander who went 14-7 this season told reporters before his Game 1 start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series.

Well, that and the $140 million Washington paid him.

But when the game started, Corbin looked as if the last place he wanted to be was on the mound in a big game like this. And missed opportunities seemed important in a tightly played game for six innings.

Then it was time to go to the Nationals bullpen — not the Stephen-Strasburg-and-all-hands-on-deck-wild-card-game bullpen, but the real one, the hide-your-eyes one that was the worst in baseball all year.

When their damage was done, it was a 6-0 Los Angeles win before a sold-out crowd of 53,095 at Dodger Stadium and a 1-0 lead in the series

Nationals manager Dave Martinez will look to Strasburg, coming off his dramatic three-inning relief victory in Tuesday’s wild card win over Milwaukee, to even the series Friday in Game 2.

“There’s no limitations,” Martinez said of Strasburg’s start on short rest. “He’s going to go out there and pitch and hopefully give us seven, eight strong innings.”

There will be limitations — severe ones — if Washington goes down 2-0 in a best-of-five series.

Strasburg hopes to have a better beginning to his start than Corbin, who walked leadoff batter A.J. Pollock, then struck out David Frese and Justin Turner before walking three straight batters — Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor and Max Muncy, with a passed ball by catcher Yan Gomes mixed in, to give Los Angeles a 1-0 lead without a hit.

It was the first time in Corbin’s career he walked four batters in one inning.

When your team only manages two hits — a second-inning single by Juan Soto and a ninth-inning double by Trea Turner — there is little room for personal highs in control issues.

Corbin threw 30 pitches in the first inning, and seemed unable to find home plate umpire Will Little’s strike zone.

Then, as if Corbin realized this indeed was the opportunity he spoke of, he settled down to hold the Dodgers scoreless for the next three innings, which might have been good enough — if Los Angeles starter Walker Buehler hadn’t held the Nationals scoreless for six innings.

Buehler didn’t have as much of a problem with Lee’s strike zone.

But Anthony Rendon did, striking out on a pitch that he thought was ball four as he tried to make his way to first base. His body language spoke frustration early.

The day before, in his meeting with reporters, Rendon nearly predicted the friction when he was told he had a history of success hitting against Buehler (3 for 6 with two doubles and two RBI). He didn’t match that success Thursday night, going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and a walk.

“Did I?” he replied. “I really don’t know … that ball still has to go over the plate, depending upon which umpire is behind there.”

Rendon was smiling at the time, but Howie Kendrick wasn’t smiling when he was called out on strikes in the second inning. He had words with Lee, and showed him where he thought the ball was — not in any reasonable strike zone.

By the end of the night, any complaints about the strike zone seemed like a reach.

Kendrick wouldn’t smile much all night. Washington went with the veteran at first base because of his hot, clutch bat. He came off the injured list on Aug. 12 and went 37 for 87 the rest of the season, a .425 average. But he is not the best option defensively at first.

Kendrick had one error on a ball hit by Buehler and let a fifth inning drive by Max Muncy go through his legs to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.’

By the seventh inning, after 107 pitches by Corbin, Martinez made the call.

With one feared appearance each by Tanner Rainey and Fernando Rodney, the Dodgers extended their lead to 4-0 on a two-run single down the right field line by Muncy.

In the eighth inning, Hunter Strickland somehow found his way to the mound and gave up a pinch-hit home run to Gavin Lux and another solo shot to Joc Pederson for the 6-0 finale.

With that, the opportunity that Patrick Corbin spoke of had past. The Nationals hope he gets another one.

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunay mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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