Davey Martinez talked to reporters after Patrick Corbin’s third rough outing in a row in early June about getting together with the pitcher and Pitching Coach Paul Menhart to try to get the left-hander straightened out.
Corbin was (0-3) in that three-start stretch with an 11.37 ERA over 12 2⁄3 IP innings pitched, in which opposing hitters had a .379/.433/.638 line against him.
“He’s got an extra day,” Martinez said. “We’re going to get him back out there and I know I talked to Paul and they’re going to try to work on some things with him and see if we can get him back on track.”
They found something, because in the three outings that followed, before the series finale with the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, Corbin was back on track, and dominant, going (2-0) with a 1.29 ERA and a .181/.224/.222 line against in 21 IP.
What changes did they make?
“A couple of things,” Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last Wednesday.
“First of all,” Rizzo said, “when you study pitchers, they have 32-33 starts — you’re going to have 10 excellent starts, you’re going to have 10 poor starts, and it’s that middle 10 starts that really makes and breaks your season. Every starting pitcher is going to go through a little lull in their performance, Patrick is no different.
“I think what Paul Menhart did along with Patrick was there [were] a couple of mechanical issues that they had to iron out, there was a — as Patrick landed he was kind of landing opening up and he couldn’t command his fastball and that’s one of the keys for him as a starting pitcher, so they worked really hard and diligently to kind of fix that little mechanical delivery flaw, and you see him commanding his two-seam fastball better which sets up his array of breaking pitches and changeups, so credit to Paul Menhart and the coaching staff and to Patrick for not panicking and just kind of going about, very business-like, looking at film and fixing what became a flaw in his delivery.”
In his final start of the first half of the first season of the 6-year/$140M free agent deal that Corbin signed with the Nationals this winter, the left-hander worked his way around a total of five hits over six scoreless innings (with help from Victor Robles, who threw out a runner on a play at the plate in the top of the fourth), striking out nine of the 22 batters he faced in what was a 1-0 game after five and a half.
Corbin retired 10-straight batters after the out at the plate in the Royals’ half of the fourth, and he completed seven scoreless on 104 pitches total, striking out 11 of 25 batters faced overall, and making a 1-0 lead hold up through six and a half...
Patrick Corbin’s Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 Ks, 104 P, 69 S, 4/2 GO/FO.
Patrick Corbin's 11Ks in 18 Seconds. pic.twitter.com/OCyv5GlPhc— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 7, 2019
Corbin received no decision when the Nationals blew a 2-0 lead in the top of the eighth, but they scored three in the bottom of the inning to take the third of three with Kansas City, 5-2.
Corbin talked after the game about the friendly rivalry among starters that’s motivating the Nationals’ pitchers to keep things rolling. He took the mound after Max Scherzer struck out 11 batters over seven scoreless on Saturday, and matched the Nationals’ ace with the seven scoreless innings he threw and the 11 Ks he collected.
“It’s fun when you got guys that go out there every day and try to pitch as deep as they can, give everything they got,” Corbin said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“You feel you don’t want to let anybody down, so you just go out there, do your job and try to compete. With this offense and the defense behind us, we’re going to win a lot of games if we just continue to do that.”
“This day and age everyone talks about bullpen, bullpen, bullpen, and I keep emphasizing — our starters are built to pitch seven innings,” Corbin’s manager said on Saturday, when asked about his starters’ workload in the “first half” of the season.
“That’s what they do,” Martinez added.
“Now granted the pitch count and stuff, you know, but Max, Corbin, [Stephen Strasburg], even [Aníbal] Sánchez, I’ve asked Sánchez to — ‘You know, hey, the five-inning outings, you’re better than that,’ and he took on the challenge and you see him now throwing 100 or so pitches and he’s been effective but that’s what these guys do, and we have conversations all time about, ‘Hey, if you need a break, just let me know,’ but when you want to take them out they don’t want to come out and that’s a great thing to have.”
What has Martinez seen from Corbin over the last four outings, in which the lefty has gone seven innings and allowed one earned run or fewer, a career-best for Corbin, and tied for the longest such streak in the majors this season, with his teammate Max Scherzer, Chicago Cubs’ lefty Cole Hamels, and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu.
“Just keeping the ball down,” Martinez explained.
“His two-seamer was good today. His cutter was good today. He threw some really good curveballs, slow curveballs, but I think when he keeps the ball down consistently he’s really effective.”