Patrick Corbin struggled out of the gate in his first two starts this season, after landing on the COVID-IL before Opening Day. Corbin, 31, gave up 12 hits and 16 runs (15 earned) over just 6 1⁄3 innings pitched in his first two starts (21.32 ERA, .387/.525/.839 line against), but over his last four outings, heading into Thursday afternoon’s matchup with Philadelphia’s Phillies, he was more like himself.
With a 3.52 ERA and a .229/.286/.494 line against in those four starts and 23 IP, Corbin told reporters, after facing the New York Yankees last week in the Bronx, that he’s getting there.
“I think so,” he said. “Physically I feel great. thought my fastball was good today. I think that’s just going to continue to improve.
“And I think the slider is going to get better and better as it goes here, starts warming up and things like that.”
“He’s been doing well,” Davey Martinez said in the manager’s pregame Zoom call with the D.C. press corps on Thursday, “... so I anticipate him to go out there and keep us in the ballgame.
“Hopefully we come out and score early, score often, and he gives us six or seven innings.”
He gave them seven.
Start No. 7 of Corbin’s third year in the Nationals’ rotation began with the lefty giving up a leadoff double by Andrew McCutchen, who moved up on an infield single by Bryce Harper, then scored on a “double steal” with Harper taking off to draw a throw to first base from the pitcher, while McCutchen broke for home and slid in under Yan Gomes’ tag on a high throw from first baseman Josh Bell, 1-0 Phillies.
That’s all Corbin gave up through seven innings of work, in which he gave up five hits total in the end, with no walks, nine Ks, and nine ground ball outs from the 26 batters he faced.
Patrick Corbin’s Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 Ks, 102 P, 70 S, 9/2 GO/FO.
Corbin threw sliders for 49 of his 102 pitches (48%, up from a season average of 32.2%), and got a total of 13 swinging strikes with the pitch, which the left-hander said was sharper than it has been in other outings.
“I thought it was one of my better games with my slider,” Corbin said. “Was able to throw it for strikes, throw it kind of where I wanted. Got ahead of guys today, attacked the zone, and just was on a great rhythm with Yan back there.
“I wanted to go out there, especially after the last couple games against these guys to come out with a win today.”
What was different with the slider?
“I thought today just my finish was a lot better,” Corbin explained. “The slider felt like normal coming out.
“I mean, other games it would feel like it here and there, I just thought today I was a lot more consistent with it, which is good.
“Mechanically, things were just a little off I thought early on. Now I feel — body feels great, starting to use my legs, kind of feeling like my old self.”
“His first couple outings he wasn’t throwing strikes,” manager Davey Martinez said, when it was pointed out that for the third time in his last five starts Corbin hadn’t walked anyone.
“When he pumps strikes and gets to two strikes as quick as he has been doing, it’s going to be a tough at bat for the opponent.”
“He gave us what we needed today, it was awesome. His slider was good. He was locating his fastball. It was a good day,” Martinez added.
“I think he’s on the right track now. Earlier everybody started worrying about him, but I think now he’s got everything together and this is the Patrick Corbin that we’ve seen in the past.”
“Yeah, strike one is important,” Corbin said. “I’ve never been a huge walk guy, so it’s kind of frustrating walking a lot of guys, not really knowing where the ball is going, but getting ahead of guys, throwing good slider 0-0, changeups if needed, fastball command, and just being able to locate, and when you’re able to do that you force them to swing and that’s when you get some more swings out of my slider.
“It’s good to see, just be aggressive in the zone, and I just think mechanically that’s going to clean up a lot of those walks that we saw early on.”
Was there a certain point in this last stretch, in a bullpen session, or in a game, when he felt it all click?
“I threw a bullpen when we were playing I think it was the Blue Jays there in Florida,” Corbin said. “I felt like, ‘Hey,’ something just clicked that day where I was getting in my legs more, and just trying to get back to as normal as possible. So, I think today was a great step in the right direction, just with my slider there, feeling comfortable there, being consistent with it has been something that I’ve always had, but at the beginning of this year hasn’t been there.”
“For us it was all just tweaking his mechanics a little bit,” Martinez said, “getting him to really attack his line to home plate. He was pulling off early and we got him to use his legs a little more and drive towards home plate. And he’s been good. [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey has been really good with pinpointing different things with mechanics, and stuff, so he’s helped him out a lot, and he’s been doing really well.”