The only questions were whether Yan Gomes could score, whether the catcher had enough time and whether Trea Turner’s double was enough to nudge the Washington Nationals ahead of the Miami Marlins in the ninth inning Tuesday night.
And the answer, to everything, was yes.
Turner’s third walk-off hit of the season decided Washington’s 3-2 victory at Nationals Park . Gomes, running on the 3-2 pitch, raced around from first base to score the winning run with two outs. Patrick Corbin, pitching through grief following the sudden death of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs , his former teammate and close friend, tossed seven strong innings. He gave up just one run and struck out seven despite having his start split by a 76-minute rain delay.
His teammates, after squandering the lead in the eighth, finally rewarded that effort when Turner smacked that ball into the gap in right-center field.
“He picked us up tonight,” Turner said of Corbin. “You know, rain delay, tough past 24 hours, and still went out there and pitched and competed. Hats off to him tonight. Words don’t do it justice. That was big on many different levels.”
The Nationals have now won 24 of their past 34 games and 11 of their past 14, and they are six games behind the Atlanta Braves in the tightening National League East. They have homered in 16 consecutive games, tying a franchise record set by the Montreal Expos in 1999, and Corbin has dominated in three straight outings since hitting a troubling rough patch. Juan Soto smacked a two-run homer and added a triple. And the bullpen’s latest lapse, keyed by another shaky appearance from Wander Suero in the eighth, only complicated their path to victory.
[ Svrluga: After death of close friend Tyler Skaggs, all Patrick Corbin could do was pitch ]
Washington had begun the evening with a moment of silence for Skaggs, who was found dead in a Southlake, Tex., hotel room Monday. His death reverberated across baseball , through social media posts, to teary memories shared by former teammates and then to Nationals Park for this one.
Manager Dave Martinez began his pregame news conference with an emotional statement about Skaggs, offering condolences to his family and the Angels, saying, “It’s a tough, tough ordeal.” Adam Eaton, Gerardo Parra and Howie Kendrick played with Skaggs earlier in their careers. And Corbin was one of Skaggs’s best friends.
Skaggs and Corbin were drafted together by the Angels in 2009, were sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the same 2010 trade and debuted there in 2012. They only grew closer in the years since, and Skaggs was in Corbin’s wedding this past fall. Corbin bowed his head during the moment of silence Tuesday, pausing his warm-up in the bullpen, and he wore Skaggs’s No. 45 instead of his usual No. 46. He also etched the number in the dirt on the back of the mound before the game.
Then he set out to honor Skaggs, one pitch at a time, before and after the rain.
“It’s been hard. Just been thinking of Tyler, his wife, Carli, family — just you can’t believe he’s gone,” Corbin said as he fought back tears during a postgame interview. When asked to describe his relationship with Skaggs, Corbin began to answer and had to pause for about 30 seconds. Then he apologized, his nose red and tears on his cheeks, before saying, “He’s all I’m thinking about right now.”
Corbin found trouble right away Tuesday night — he allowed a run on three straight singles in the first — but settled in right after. He escaped the first-inning jam with back-to-back strikeouts and a flyout to the wall in left. And before he could continue, and really find his rhythm, Soto flipped the scoreboard in Washington’s favor.
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Soto was once off to a slow start, way back in April, for a stretch that is hard to imagine now that he is hitting so well. He entered this series with a 1.002 on-base-plus-slugging percentage since returning from the injured list May 11. He only continued that against Marlins starter Zac Gallen in the bottom of the first, when he lifted a curveball into the right field seats to score himself and Turner. It was his third home run in five games.
The storm came in the middle of the third, whipping through the stadium, washing Gallen out of the game and forcing Corbin to keep his arm loose. He stretched with the training staff and didn’t tax his arm with a lot of pitches. He then tossed in the outfield with bullpen catcher Octavio Martinez and told Martinez he could push further into a damp and sticky night.
“He didn’t want to let his teammates down,” Martinez said. “It was his day to start. He wanted to go out there and perform for his teammates.”
The lefty allowed a two-out single to Miguel Rojas in the fifth and then picked him off to end the inning. He used two strikeouts to retire the Marlins in order in the sixth. His workload was managed by two early double plays, turning small jams into quick frames, and he needed just nine pitches to breeze through the seventh.
The lefty was finished after that, having done his part in 87 pitches and handing the ball to Suero with six outs to go. But Suero couldn’t hold the one-run lead, giving up a leadoff double to Cesar Puello, who scored two batters later on Rojas’s sacrifice fly.
It took three batters for the Marlins to tie the score off Washington’s up-and-down setup man. It took one swing for Turner to make sure Corbin’s gutsy tribute to Skaggs ended in celebration.
Corbin did the hard part Tuesday, and then Gomes made it all the way home.
“It’s one of those performances that we’re going to remember, he’s going to remember, just because of how much motivation he had behind it,” Gomes said. “And I know Tyler would’ve been proud of him.”
Jesse Dougherty Jesse Dougherty covers the Washington Nationals. Follow
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