Patrick Corbin threw seven scoreless innings on the mound in LA when he went up against the Dodgers back in May, giving up three hits and four walks, but no runs in what ended up a 6-0 win for Washington.
Corbin threw 107 pitches total in that outing, generating 12 swinging strikes and four called strikes with the 44 sliders he threw to the Dodgers, with 20 swings and misses and 16 called strikes overall in that start on the road in Chavez Ravine.
On the season, the 30-year-old left-hander threw his slider 37% of the time, with a .158 BAA on the pitch, which Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts told reporters on Wednesday is a tough one to pick up when mixed in with Corbin’s fastball.
“It comes out of the same lane, window,” Roberts explained, comparing it to his own left-hander Clayton Kershaw’s breaking ball.
“It’s the same thing that makes Clayton so successful. You just can’t see the spin and it just has — it obviously, it has more sweep than Clayton’s does. But the point being is that it’s hard, it’s in that same window, and then it has the depth and the horizontal movement, it’s just hard to pick up.”
The key to approaching Corbin, LA’s manager said, is to force him into the zone.
“He’s fastball, slider, and that’s to the lefty, righty,” Roberts said. “And if we can keep him in the strike zone, it increases our opportunities. But if we’re chasing below the zone, then it’s going to be a long day for us. He’s having a very good year.”
Corbin finished the 2019 regular season and the first year of his 6-year/$140M deal with Washington, with a 3.25 ERA, a 3.49 FIP, 70 walks (3.12 BB/9), 238 Ks (10.60 K/9), and a .227/.293/.375 line against in 202 IP.
He’s faced the Dodgers 21 times (19 starts) in his career, playing in Arizona before signing on in D.C. this winter, but he’s never pitched in the postseason before, so it’s going to be a new experience for the veteran starter when he takes the mound in Game 1 of the NLDS tonight.
“I’ve never pitched in the playoffs,” Corbin acknowledged, when he spoke to reporters in LA in advance of his postseason debut, “but that was a big reason why I wanted to come here, to have an opportunity to pitch in games like this, big games.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to go out there. And Dodgers have had a great season and so have we, so this should be a fun series.”
Will his familiarity with the Dodgers’ lineup and Dodger Stadium be a benefit when he takes the mound tonight?
“Yeah, I pitched here quite a bit in my time in Arizona. They know me, I know them. So it’s just going out there, executing my pitches, coming up with a good game plan. And I’m not trying to fool them. They know what I have. And just going to go out there, treat it like any other start and just be myself.”
His teammates in D.C. have had a full season to get to know Corbin, and Anthony Rendon told reporters on Wednesday that working behind the left-hander all year has given him a new perspective on what the southpaw brings to the mound.
“Oh, man, he throws a lot of sliders,” Rendon said. “But I love his tempo. I didn’t realize that being on the other side of him, playing against him, but actually playing defense behind him, he’s a dog, he goes after you. He’s not going to change up his approach toward anybody, any type of hitter. He has a plan and he goes after it. He’s not going to give in to anybody. So he grabs that ball and he throws it every single time and he’s not waiting for anybody. As a defender, playing behind him, I love that. I personally don’t like just sitting there waiting for someone to get the sign or have that slow tempo. So as a pitcher, to have that kind of go-hard mentality, it’s awesome.”
Corbin said he knows that the Nationals have a big challenge ahead of them in taking on the Dodgers, with two impressive starting staffs, and difficult lineups to navigate on each side, but he said he’s ready for the challenge and thinks the Nats match up well with the 106-win club from LA.
“Obviously, their rotation has had a great season and ours as well,” Corbin explained, noting that the two clubs have a sort of old-school approach when it comes to starting rotations.
“A lot of these games, the bullpens, the openers, things like that have happened. But if you have good starting pitching that can go out there, just keep your team in the ball game, anything can happen. Last night Max [Scherzer] did a great job keeping us in the game, only giving up three, and then [Stephen Strasburg] came in and the offense came back. But that’s really what you’re trying to do. If we’re in these games, our offense is good enough to put up a lot of runs. So [is] the Dodgers’ lineup, they’re as tough as anybody in the game, so it could come down to starting pitching, but there’s going to be runs scored in this series, you just try to minimize damage.”