Patrick Corbin gave up four-plus earned runs in 9 of 11 outings between July 1st and August 31st, then his manager, Davey Martinez, matched the left-hander up with veteran backstop Alex Avila (fresh off a long IL stint) in the left-hander’s start against the New York Mets in the nation’s capital on September 6th, and Corbin held the Washington Nationals’ NL East rivals to three runs on 11 hits in seven innings of work. In the next outing, on the road in PNC Park, Corbin, working with Avila again, held Pittsburgh’s Pirates to two runs on four hits and two walks in another seven-inning outing.
Both Corbin and Martinez, however, talked after that second start about Avila helping to get Corbin back on track, while acknowledging that the veteran starter, who is in the third year of his 6-year/$140M contract with the club, is going to have to get used to working with the young catchers the Nationals acquired at the trade deadline to solidify their catching corps for the future.
“I’ve thrown to [Avila] a bunch,” Corbin said after his 19th career start working with the 34-year-old catcher (between Arizona, in 2018, and Washington this season).
“He’s been in this game for a long time, so he sees probably some things a little different than some other guys here, but I know the future here. I’m going to have to throw to those guys as well, so no matter who is back there you try to come up with a game plan, but you give all the credit to Al back there, just somebody that I’m very comfortable with, kind of like Yan Gomes when he was here, just somebody that I’ve thrown to a bunch, and they kind of know what’s working, maybe what’s not working that day, and make some quick adjustments.”
“Alex has caught him quite a bit, and he understands what he’s trying to do and they both are on the same page always,” Martinez explained.
“I wanted Alex to catch him a couple of times just to get him back on track. Who knows, I don’t know if I’m going to do it again, I might have one of these young guys to catch him, but we’ll see, but Alex, he calls a great game and he understands how to get guys out.”
Before the lineup for Saturday’s game was released, Martinez talked about matching Avila and Corbin up again against the Colorado Rockies.
“I know that both [Keibert] Ruiz and Riley [Adams] have looked at Patrick’s stuff, and how he pitches,” Martinez said. “Again today, Avila is going to catch him. The last two outings, he’s done well with him, he feels a lot better, so like I said, for me it’s getting him to continue to be consistent, go out there today and continue to do what he’s been doing, and I like it, I like it a lot, so, I want him to leave this year with confidence, because he’s a big part of our future, as we all know, Patrick has got to come back next year and get off to a good start, so Alex is going to catch him.”
But, of course, Avila, is on a one-year deal with the club, and his future is uncertain at this point, so, assuming that Ruiz and Adams are the likely duo behind the dish for 2022, how does the Nats’ skipper weigh the importance of getting Corbin straightened out and getting work in with the two catchers who will be behind the plate with him next season?
“Ruiz and Riley, they’ve got to pay attention today,” Martinez said.
“Watch the games, see what’s going on, talk to Alex about what they’re trying to do, but really get to know Patrick as well. Because they’re going to catch him.”
“In the future those guys are going to catch him,” he added.
“So they got to really understand what Patrick is really trying to do, and get them to understand what he needs to do to be successful.”
Will they be able to do that with work in Spring Training next year, or does he want to get them behind the plate working with Corbin in game action before this season is over?
“Honestly, for me, we’ll see how it goes today,” Martinez said, “but I’d like these guys to catch him, catch Corbin, whether it’s Ruiz or Riley, catch him before the season ends, I really do.”
It didn’t got well for Corbin against the Rockies.
Garrett Hampson hit a 403-foot, 103.6 MPH double center on a 1-0 sinker in the first at-bat of the game, then Rockies’ second baseman Brendan Rogers hit a hanging, 0-0 slider 391 feet right field at 103.3 MPH on Corbin’s third pitch of the gave to give the visiting team in Nationals Park a 2-0 lead.
C.J. Cron hit a 108.7 MPH double later in the inning, Elias Díaz hit a 109.3 MPH double, and the third run of the first inning scored on a grounder to third base by Ryan McMahon that got by Carter Kieboom’s backhand, 3-0.
Two innings later, Corbin gave up a one-out walk to Hampson, a single by Rodgers, and a three-run home run by Trevor Story, whose 23rd of ‘21 was the major league-leading 36th off the Nationals’ starter this season.
Patrick Corbin’s Line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 2 HRs, 87 P, 51 S, 6/1 GO/FO.
“I think he just had no command of his pitches,” Martinez said after the Nationals’ 6-0 loss to the Rockies. “Fastball was erratic. He tried to throw some — he fell behind and tried to throw some breaking balls for strikes and just left them up and got hit hard. So, just one of those days for him today, he was pitching better, just his command was off today.”
“I think just fastball command just wasn’t very good today,” Corbin said, “so just trying to find a way if I’m trying to throw away, or if I’m trying go throw in, being able to hit those spots more consistently, so just going to try to look at some things and try to correct that in my bullpen, and a couple more starts left, try to finish the season on the right way.”
“I”m going to talk to him tomorrow,” Martinez added. “I don’t want this to deter what he did the last two outings, let’s see if this week we can get him back straightened up again and he starts throwing the ball where he wants to. That was the big deal last time, he started spotting his fastballs down and away, his changeups were better, his breaking ball was a lot sharper, so let’s get him back there for his next start.”