Washington Nationals’ left-hander Patrick Corbin started Sunday’s game against the Braves in Atlanta’s Truist Park with a .264/.351/.454 line against the first time through the lineup in 2021, a similar .267/.305/.460 line the second time through, but then a brutal .339/.381/.651 line against the third time he faces opposing hitters in a start.
Corbin was particularly efficient on Sunday, retiring the first eight batters he faced before the Braves’ starter, Max Fried, broke up the nascent no-hit bid with a two-out single in the home-half of the third, and Ozzie Albies stepped in next and hit an 0-1 sinker to center for his 18th home run on the season, which put Atlanta up 2-1.
After scoreless innings in the fourth and fifth, Corbin was up to just 46 pitches, but then in the bottom of the sixth, Austin Riley hit a two-out RBI double on a 1-1 sinker down and away to the right-handed hitter, and Adam Duvall followed with a two-run homer on an 0-1 slider down and in that went out to left for the Braves’ second home run of the game and the 9th homer off of the Nationals’ southpaw in the last four starts and 23 IP.
They were the 26th and 27th home runs Corbin has allowed overall this year, the second-most HRs allowed amongst qualified major league starters this season, and the five runs he gave up in the outing left him with a 5.83 ERA on the year, which was the highest in the majors, among qualified starters as of Sunday afternoon.
“I still felt good, still touching 94,” Corbin said of his struggles in the sixth, which began with a leadoff walk.
“Albies, I get ahead 0-2 there, he lays off a bunch of sliders, I end up walking him, got two ground balls after that, easily could have — if they’re hit a little bit to the left or right, try to get a double play there, so I thought I made some good pitches there. And then the sinker down and away to Riley, kind of surprised how he kept that one fair, which led to a run. And then threw a slider down and in to Duvall.
“Like I said, felt good, just seems kind of something happens there, and giving up a big hit like that. But I don’t know, I feel like I’m still making pitches, trying to be aggressive. To get through six innings, 68 pitches, I mean, I felt really good.”
“It seems like the balls that he leaves up or out over, they get hit hard, it’s been homers,” Davey Martinez told reporters after the Nationals’ second loss in the three-game series.
“It hasn’t been like base hits. But, man, I thought his stuff was really today. He was pounding the strike zone, he had 68 pitches in six innings. Just like I said, some of the balls he left up out over the plate, left the ballpark.”
The Nationals, and Corbin, need to figure something out going forward, considering he’s in the third year of a six-year/$140M deal right now.
“Yes, he’s definitely a huge part of our success moving forward, that’s for sure,” Martinez said. “He’s a veteran pitcher, he understands the game.
“I truly think he’s been throwing the ball really well, we just got to get him past that inning. It seems like he has one inning where things go awry on him. So we got to get him past that inning. But when you’re watching him, I’m watching him and he’s throwing the ball well, his fastball is coming out, he’s live, he’s making his pitches, and then all of a sudden just a couple pitches get up on him or out over the plate. I talked to him about it and he said he just felt good all game and he just makes one or two mistakes and he sits there and says, ‘Why couldn’t they just be hits. Why are the balls going over the fence.’”
“As a pitcher you can go out there and try to make quality pitches as best as you can,” Corbin said.
“And sometimes you do give up hits on those pitches, and I’m not saying — I probably made some other mistakes in the game that I got some outs on, but yeah, it does seem like there’s a pitch there late where they put up a couple more runs, but I don’t know, it’s tough to look back on the outing and kind of say what I would have done differently. We had a good game plan, just they got those three runs there late, obviously want to try to put a zero up, but it just seems that’s the way it’s been going for me. I don’t know an answer for it. But like I said, I feel good, and that’s really all I can say, the results just really haven’t been there.”
His manager is determined to help Corbin sort it all out.
“We got to keep battling and get through it, and know that come that sixth or seventh inning, you just got to battle through it, you got to make pitches, get the ball down.
“By that time, it’s the third time through the order, might have to change up. May have to throw more fastballs away and not rely on the sliders as much, because as you can tell, they start swinging at the sliders, so maybe we’ll have to change something that way, but we’ll take a look at all that stuff, but we definitely need him and we’re going to need him in the future.”
Corbin’s teammate, Ryan Zimmerman, pointed to the past when asked what he’s seen from the lefty in his starts as he’s struggled over the last two years, and particularly to that World Series they won together in 2019.
“I think he’s thrown better the last month or so,” the 36-year-old, 16-year veteran said.
“I mean, I think a lot of people forget, he was for lack of a better words ‘abused’ in 2019 in the playoff run. He did things that he’s never done for us to win that World Series. I think people think that you just recover from that and come back the next year and everything is fine. Well, you come back the next year and they have the Spring Training and then you get shut down and then you have to start up again. I’m not making excuses for Pat, but then the beginning of this year the first 10-14 days, he was on the [COVID-IL] so he basically rehabbed in the big leagues his first three starts of this year, so I think you’ve seen the last four or five starts he’s throwing 93-94-95, I even saw 96 last start I think, and he’s getting a lot more swing and misses on his slider, so I’m not worried about Pat. He works hard. I think he’s going to rebound, but it seems like he goes through the lineup a couple times and then sometimes the third time through they get him, but I don’t really worry about him too much.”