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Washington Nationals’ Patrick Corbin finds his swing & miss slider vs Pittsburgh Pirates...

Patrick Corbin found his swing and miss slider. Was it Pirates’ hitters, or was it a change for the lefty?

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Corbin hasn’t been getting the swings and misses he’s used to getting with his slider and when he spoke about it a week back, he acknowledged he wasn’t sure exactly why that was.

“Obviously I’d like to strike out more guys,” Corbin told reporters after his start against the Rays in Tampa Bay last week.

“Not really sure why that is or what’s different, but just going to continue to work on it and I think at times my slider has been pretty good, and maybe at some times not as sharp, but not quite sure why.

“I’m just going to continue to keep throwing it and hopefully start getting more swings and misses on it.”

His Whiff% on the slider has dropped to 38.1% in 2020, and 36.8% this season after the start against the Rays, which is off a bit from 51.4% in his first season in D.C. in 2019, and 53.1% in 2018, in his final season with the Arizona Diamondbacks before he signed on in D.C., taking a 6-year/$140M deal from the Nationals.

Hitters still had just a .205 AVG on his slider this season, after he finished 2020 with a .198 BAA on the pitch, which was, however, up from .158 in 2019, and .145 in 2018.

Then, all of a sudden, last night, it was back.

Corbin threw 43 sliders (39% of his 110 total pitches) and got 22 swings, with 11 swinging strikes on the pitch, (50% Whiff%) along with 10 that were called strikes (good for a 49% CSW%). What was different?

“I thought we did a better job throwing them in the zone for strikes when I needed to, good, quality ones, and again burying it when I needed to,” Corbin said, after his 8 13-inning start in what ended up an 8-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“Gave up a couple hits on some changeups that we tried tonight, but I also had some outs and I thought some quality strikes with it as well.

“Threw a couple curveballs, but locating your fastball, getting ahead of guys, I thought in Tampa I felt pretty good, just was missing there a little bit in the first, ended up walking three batters, but felt really good the rest of that game.

“So just wanted to be aggressive tonight, attack the zone, and that’s what we did.”

Corbin actually threw more sinkers than sliders against the Rays, but last night he was back to being the slider-heavy lefty he has been throughout his career.

“Sometimes you can make this game more difficult than it already is, and for me I’m not up there fooling guys too much,” Corbin said.

“They know I throw my slider and I throw it a lot, and why not just continue to do that.”

And all the swinging strikes this time out?

“Yeah, I mean, for me the slider is multiple pitches,” Corbin tried to explained, ‘when I am throwing some for strikes, throw some in the mid-70s there that I’m looking for, but I just really haven’t had that command consistently all season, so tonight that was good to see.”

“I feel like sometimes when he’s trying to place his slider, is when he kind of gets in trouble,” catcher Yan Gomes said after guiding Corbin through the outing. “He’s obviously made a very good living with his slider, his slider/fastball mix, I think it’s just a matter of him trying to keep that fastball/slider the same, the same mannerisms, same action, coming out of the same slot, and he’ll start to get kind of back to where he used to be, kind of getting a lot of swings and misses when he’s being aggressive with his fastball and just throwing his slider off of it, instead of if he’s throwing a ball with his slider, guys are not chasing, he’s trying to place it, that’s where it kind of takes away from what his pitch is good at.”

“I just think it’s a matter of obviously pitching with confidence, pitching ahead,” Gomes continued.

“I think once you get aggressive guys fighting for pitches you get them to chase. He was spotting it up both sides of the plate as well and obviously you saw how it played out.”

“It was really good,” manager Davey Martinez said.

“He was trying to throw it over for a strike, and it had depth to it, as before he was more trying to throw it for a strikeout pitch.

“We just — Hickey and I just told, ‘Hey, just throw it. Throw it over the plate. You’re going to end up throwing it in, or back foot in, so just try to get it over the bottom part of the plate, and tonight it was good, he threw some that were short, but the rest of them were really good, and like I said, they were starting as strikes, and they were ending up down in the zone, which is perfect.”