Unbeaten in five starts this month going into his start on Saturday afternoon, at (3-0) with the Washington Nationals 4-1 in his outings, Patrick Corbin had settled in this season, after what was a pretty rough start. And the 31-year-old southpaw had put up a 3.82 ERA, eight walks, 22 Ks, and a .288/.331/.441 line against in 30 2⁄3 IP in May before facing Milwaukee’s Brewers.
The solid month of May left Corbin with a 6.13 ERA, a 5.63 FIP, 3.45 BB/9, and 6.89 K/9 in nine starts and 47 IP overall this season.
Davey Martinez talked before the first of two yesterday, about what he’s seen from the lefty so far this season.
We went digging around in Corbin’s numbers this year after the rainout on Friday night, and noted that his four-seam fastball usage was up around 8-10% from the previous three years, and his sinker percentage was down, with the sinker (two-seam fastball) getting hit for the second straight season, with opposing hitters putting up a .400 AVG on the pitch before Saturday, so we asked if Martinez and the lefty, or Corbin and pitching coach Jim Hickey had discussed what they were seeing with the two fastballs he throws?
Is he leaning on his four-seam simply because sinker is not where he wants it?
“He’s locating his four-seam a lot better than his sinker,” Martinez said. “You know usually when he throws his two-seamer he tries to get it in, he’s been trying to get it in, it’s been more middle, in the middle, so he seems more comfortable throwing his four-seamer so we’re allowing him to throw his four-seamer.”
“The good news is that his slider in the beginning of the year was not where it normally is,” the manager added, but, “it’s a lot better now, and his changeup that he wanted to throw more of, his changeup has been pretty effective, so he’s going to go with what he feels best with that day, his last few outings have been really good, so... but he’s going to continue to throw his two-seamers when need be, and it’s something that he’s talked to Hickey and [catcher] Alex [Avila] about before each game, each outing, when to use it, but he needs to use that, I mean, he needs to pitch both sides of the plate as we always talk about.”
The changeup, which Corbin worked to incorporate this spring, hasn’t been the weapon he hoped it would be. He also told reporters earlier this month he thought throwing the cutters and changeups he was working on this spring unknowingly messed up mechanics, and he was throwing his changeup just 5.6% of the time, before Saturday, with .500 AVG against it, and throwing his cutter just 1.9% of the time, while throwing a predominantly slider/four-seam/two-seam mix.
Is the focus on the returning to what got him where he is now something Martinez or Hickey recommended, Corbin’s decision, or a group decision?
“As you know, he hasn’t thrown his changeup the last few outings,” Martinez, said, “as much, on occasion, sometimes when you try to throw your changeup too much it does mess up your mechanics, because you really have to stay back, so for him the changeup wasn’t very conducive — even though he threw a lot in Spring Training just to get the feel of it, but he’s definitely a fastball/slider guy, I mean he’s got to utilize his slider a lot. That’s his go-to pitch. He’s getting back to that, and like I said, he’s been successful doing it.”
Corbin ran into trouble early in his start against the Brewers on Saturday afternoon, walking Christian Yelich after getting up 1-2 on the outfielder, extending the inning for Avisaíl García, who made the Nationals’ starter pay for the two-out free pass when he hit a 1-1 sinker (two-seamer) inside (but not far enough in) out to left-center for a two-out blast and a 2-0 lead.
A four-seamer inside didn’t quite get there either on Kolten Wong’s leadoff double in the top of the third, and Wong moved over to third on a fly to right in the next at bat, before scoring on Yelich’s RBI triple, which came on a 1-0 sinker in on the left-hand hitter. Yelich scored on a groundout as well, making it 4-0 in what ended up a 4-1 loss.
Patrick Corbin’s Line: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HR, 78 P, 47 S, 5/3 GO/FO.
Corbin said after the outing that he felt better than his line looked.
“A little frustrating giving up four runs today, just felt like I threw a little better than that,” the 31-year-old southpaw said. “Just — Yelich had a good walk there in the first. I thought I made some good pitches there, he laid off a couple there, he got on and then García hit a fastball that I didn’t get in, but I thought we worked well with Alex [Avila] back there.
“I thought my slider was pretty good, just they put the ball in play there in the third and got a couple more runs on some ground balls, one got down the line, and ground ball to short as well, but yeah.”
“I absolutely agree with that,” Martinez said when informed of Corbin’s comment that he felt he pitched better than his line looked. “The biggest thing was the two-out walk in the first inning, I thought he made some pretty good pitches to Yelich, but he’s a good hitter, he got the walk and then the one pitch to Garcia, down and in, he didn’t quite get it in where he wanted to. Once he leaves it out like that, Avisaíl hits the ball down really well, but other than that he gave up two other hits, one ground ball that went down the line, but other than that he threw the ball really well.”
Corbin’s given up a lot of extra base hits on the sinker (six doubles and four home runs), a reporter noted, asking if it’s just the location or the movement of the pitch that’s been an issue?
“I don’t know,” Corbin said. “I feel like I’ve been getting a lot of ground balls on my sinker. That one was a four-seam in, it was a four-seam on the double to Wong there. And then, what was the other hit, one other pitch there was a two-seamer. But I don’t know, I thought I had a better slider today where I guess you can always second-guess anything, maybe throw a slider there [to García] instead of a fastball in, but I felt better than what it showed.”