Patrick Corbin helps the Nationals, so does Sonny Gray

Todd Dybas

The night set up well.

Patrick Corbin was on the mound for the Nationals. Chris Paddack was throwing for San Diego against Milwaukee. Sonny Gray opposed the Chicago Cubs. Good teams deploy a decent starter almost every night. Bad teams have a good starter ready once or twice a week. So, while the Nationals again wrestled with St. Louis, they received some help from the rotations employed elsewhere by poor teams playing the main wild-card competition.

Corbin made sure Washington handled what it could control in St. Louis. He hung in for six innings on 110 pitches, allowing just an earned run and striking out 11. He also walked four -- two of which were ex-teammate Paul Goldschmidt, the lone St. Louis hitter appearing capable of identifying Corbin's slider. Fernando Rodney pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning. Well-rested Daniel Hudson finished the game along. Chip Hale again managed in place of the recuperating Davey Martinez.

Corbin's ERA is 3.10. His WHIP is 1.16. He's made 31 starts. Why did the Nationals give him an extra contract year? Why did they offer more money? This is precisely why. Stabilization exists in the middle of their rotation because of the $140 million allotted to Corbin. And, he may even have a case to start the Wild-Card Game, depending on the opponent and whether the Nationals get there. Corbin's argument to take the mound would be solid. Washington reaching the game remains an embattled proposition.

Paddack pitched well against Milwaukee, where he was restricted to just 84 pitches to close his rookie year. However, the San Diego bullpen blew the game in the eighth inning. So, Milwaukee keeps rolling, winning a bullpen game which featured a mid-section with three scoreless innings from old friend Gio Gonzalez. The Brewers have won nine of 10, 11 of 12, 14 of 17. They are two games behind St. Louis for the National League Central Division lead.

Which makes Wednesday's day game between two grizzled right-handers not just about the Nationals pushing back current wild-card opponents, but also a possible future one. Max Scherzer will pitch for Washington against Adam Wainwright. They have combined for 734 regular-season starts. Wednesday will rank among their important ones.

San Diego's bullpen did not hold up Tuesday. Cincinnati's did. Gray went 6 ⅔ innings, struck out nine and positioned the Reds for a win. They haven't put together a winning month since May. September is steeped in the same mediocrity: Cincinnati was 7-9 in the month entering Tuesday. But, it held on to beat the Cubs. Which meant Milwaukee jumped into a dead heat with Chicago. Each has 11 games to play.

Interesting about the Nationals' schedule is they have a game-in-hand on both Chicago and Milwaukee thanks to the packed final-week schedule. The June 17 postponement between Washington and Philadelphia could have an enormous impact on which teams make the postseason.

Tuesday, Corbin delivered the most impact. Howie Kendrick backed him with more 35-year-old offense. Paddack tried to slow the Brewers. Gray did handle the Cubs. All of which kept the Nationals atop the wild-card standings with a 1 ½-game lead -- for now.

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Patrick Corbin helps the Nationals, so does Sonny Gray originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington