When the Washington Nationals signed Patrick Corbin to a six-year, $140 million deal last offseason, he brought with him a resume that included two All-Star appearances, a top-five finish in Cy Young voting and nearly 900 career strikeouts.
But one thing he didn’t have was postseason experience. The Arizona Diamondbacks only made the playoffs once during his tenure (2017), and his number wasn’t called in either the Wild Card Game or the NLDS. Joining a team that had World Series aspirations, Corbin was going to have to prove himself on the October stage after the ink dried.
“The big reason [I signed with the Nationals] was to come here and make it to the World Series and win a World Series,” Corbin said before Game 3. “I knew the guys in here were capable of doing it. It’s a great team and we’ve just put things together really well.”
The left-hander made his first career playoff start in Game 1 of the NLDS, allowing one run in six innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was a strong debut, but the Nationals gave him no run support and the team fell, 6-0.
He’d make his next three appearances out of the bullpen, serving up a six-run disaster in NLDS Game 3 before cruising through two clean outings.
In Game 4 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, his offense provided him with a seven-run cushion in the first inning; it mitigated his subpar performance in which he allowed four runs over five innings.
After tossing a scoreless sixth in Game 1 of the World Series, Corbin will take the mound in Game 4 on Saturday trying to force the Houston Astros to the brink of elimination in D.C. As important as some of his relief appearances have been throughout the Nationals’ playoff run, Game 4 presents an opportunity for him to really leave something for fans to remember.
Sure, he tossed a quality start against the Dodgers. But it was in a loss and will most likely be forgotten among the profusion of playoff moments the Nationals have had this month. He got the win over the Cardinals in the NLCS. But that game was over shortly after it began and it was because of the onslaught of offense, not because of Corbin.
When the Nationals handed Corbin a six-figure contract last winter, it wasn’t for him to pitch out of the bullpen. He’s expected to be a co-ace alongside Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, both of whom have been instrumental to the team’s success this postseason. After watching his counterparts both pick up the win in Houston, Corbin will look to replicate that success.
“We all root for each other,” Corbin said. “I feel like that’s something that’s not always easy. Guys might seem like it but we really do. We try to help each other, when we’re pitching or when we’re not pitching. And I think it’s pretty special to be on a team that does stuff like that.”
Corbin will be tasked with facing an Astros offense that kicked back into gear Friday night, knocking Aníbal Sánchez around for 10 hits and four runs in five and a third innings. It’s also a very right-handed heavy lineup; Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick are the only projected lefty starters with Yordan Álvarez likely remaining on the bench without the DH available.
“These are games I want to pitch in,” Corbin said. “I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to go out there and help us win a ball game. This is what you prepare for all offseason, to pitch in these games and just to have the opportunity to go out there, give it my best.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m going to try to keep everything the same. I’m sure I’ll be excited. But I’m really looking forward to it.”
Corbin will be in D.C. until at least 2024, so he should have plenty of opportunities to endear himself to fans in the coming years. But with a strong start in Game 4, his Nationals legacy would be cemented forever.
And there’d be no doubt that every cent of that $140 million was completely worth it.