- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 6, 2019

This time the master plan didn’t work, an inning unraveled and the Washington Nationals fell back to the brink of elimination.

As Patrick Corbin faltered as a transformed reliever, the Los Angeles Dodgers posted a seven-run sixth inning and jogged away with Game 3 of the National League Division Series, beating Washington 10-4.

In key moments this postseason, the Nationals have used starters like Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg out of the bullpen. With a 2-1 lead, they returned to that script by bringing out Corbin, their left-handed No. 3 starter, to face some lefty batters in the sixth.

But Los Angeles countered by pinch-hitting right-hander David Freese, who grabbed a single that advanced Cody Bellinger to third. Russell Martin, another righty, followed that with a deep 2-run double that gave the Dodgers the 3-2 lead.

After a walk, pinch-hitter Kiké Hernández copied Martin with a 2-run double before Corbin was pulled for Wander Suero.

“It stinks,” Corbin said. “I felt like I let these guys down.”

Suero intentionally walked Max Muncy, who had homered earlier in the night, but it only set up Justin Turner for a 3-run bomb to bring the Dodger lead to 8-2 before Washington finally got out of the inning.

Manager Dave Martinez was comfortable with his decision to swap starter Aníbal Sánchez out for Corbin and said he’d do it again. Sánchez allowed one run through five innings.

“Aníbal was at 87 pitches. He gave us all he had,” Martinez said. “We were at this spot in the lineup where we thought Corbin could get through it. And his stuff was good … He had every hitter 0-2. He just couldn’t finish it. They laid off some good pitches.”

The Dodgers lead the series 2-1 and can advance by winning Game 4 at Nationals Park, scheduled for 6:40 p.m. Monday, although rain is in the forecast.

The Nationals got off to the start they likely wanted when Juan Soto hit a two-run home run in the first — becoming just the eighth player in history with a postseason homer before turning 21.

Sánchez escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the first and went on to strike out six of the first 10 batters he faced. He pitched five innings and finished with nine strikeouts — five coming on a changeup that averaged an icy 74.4 mph for the night, and another two on his splitter.

Muncy blasted a two-strike, two-out home run off Sánchez in the fifth before his exit, the only run the 35-year-old allowed. The Nationals still held the lead and had good reason to feel positive.

“We just have to keep plugging away,” catcher Kurt Suzuki said. “You definitely feel confident. You have the lead. You still have to finish it. That is a good lineup over there. They did their job tonight.”

Behind 8-2 after the Dodgers’ outburst, Washington plated two runs in the bottom of the sixth against relievers Joe Kelly and Julio Urias — thanks to three walks, a wild pitch, a Howie Kendrick single and an Asdrúbal Cabrera sacrifice fly.

But Kendrick was caught trying to take third, a baserunning mistake that made the sac fly a double play, killing the Nationals’ chances for more.

“I think he was trying to be overly aggressive,” Martinez said. “He started, stopped, then started again. For me, if he had went right away, he makes it. Once you stop, then that’s it, you’ve gotta get back. He knew that. He’s a veteran guy. Yeah, it was frustrating.”

Those five solid innings melted away after once seven runs scored on Corbin and Suero. Scoreless innings from Fernando Rodney and Tanner Rainey held Los Angeles in check, but Martin nailed a 2-run home run off Hunter Strickland in the ninth.

Scherzer will start Game 4 for the Nationals, while the Dodgers will give the ball to Rich Hill.

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