Calling Patrick Corbin’s pitch mix slider-heavy is an understatement. In Arizona in 2018, the left-hander threw his slider 41% of the time, 1,303 of his 3,142 total pitches. Batters had a .148 AVG on the pitch last season (vs .280 on his sinker; .251 on his four-seamer; .273 on his curve; and .556 on his changeup).
So what makes his slider such an effective pitch?
“It’s just the way he pounds the zone in, but the way he keeps it down. The biggest thing for him is keeping it down, and he can throw it at any time, which is kind of nice,” Corbin’s new manager, Davey Martinez, told reporters before the lefty made his debut for the Nationals in the series finale with the New York Mets on Sunday afternoon.
Patrick Corbin, Filthy 82mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/pLP7NTLl8F— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 31, 2019
Washington was trying to avoid a season-opening sweep after dropping the first two games this season, and they had their biggest free agent signing (6-years/$140M) of the winter on the mound trying to help them avoid losing three straight to their NL East rivals in Nationals Park.
Martinez said he wasn’t concerned that Corbin would put any extra pressure on himself as the Nats tried to avoid getting swept.
“For me, we’ve got a really good pitcher going on the mound to start the game,” Martinez said, “and I expect Pat to be Pat, and go out there and compete and keep us in the game.”
Asked what fans watching Corbin closely for the first time should look for, Martinez said to watch for the slider, down in the zone, if the left is on, and watch just how competitive the starter is on the mound.
“He’s got, as everybody knows, he’s got a good slider,” Martinez explained. “Good cutter. He’s got to keep the ball down, but he’s going to go out there and just like Max Scherzer, he’s going to compete. I don’t talk to the starting pitchers the day they pitch, before the games, so he’s going through his routine and he’s preparing himself and he’s getting ready.”
Corbin gave up a run in the third in his first start of the season, but held the Mets there as the Nationals rallied with three in the bottom of the third and another in the fourth, taking the lead, 4-1, as the starter settled into his first outing for the home team in D.C.
Corbin gave up another run in the sixth, but limited the damage, with Brian Dozier and Trea Turner starting a high-degree-of-difficulty 4-6-3 double play that helped the starter out of a first-and-third, no-out jam.
What do you think of this double play and why does it belong in a museum? pic.twitter.com/VwWAwfhURP— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 31, 2019
Martinez went to the bullpen after hitting for his starter with a runner on and two out in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Patrick Corbin’s Line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 94 P, 55 S, 5/6 GO/FO.
Though their total pitch count is off slightly, Brooksbaseball.net had Corbin throwing 34 sliders total in the outing, 21 for strikes, generating 18 swings and 10 swings and misses.
The Nationals added a run in the bottom of the sixth, for a 5-2 lead, but the bullpen gave up three runs in the eighth before Trea Turner’s walk-off heroics salvaged the series finale.
“Pat Corbin pitched really, really well,” Martinez said after the game, making sure to mention the starter’s efforts amidst all the talk of Turner and the early-season bullpen issues.
“Always exciting, especially being with a new ballclub here,” Corbin said of his first outing in front of a home crowd in D.C. “I just wanted to go out there and give us a chance to win.
“After those first two games — I’m not saying we had to win this, but I just wanted to go out there and do my best, and the defense played great behind me, Yan [Gomes] called a great game.”
“My slider felt good today,” Corbin added when asked what was working for him.
“I tried to get ahead of these guys, they’ve been pretty aggressive, some of their hitters, so just tried to make quality pitches, and I thought when I did get in a couple jams there I was able to make pitches. That double play was huge, and the turn was not an easy turn, so like I said, great defense behind me today.”