When he spoke to reporters before the series opener with Miami on Tuesday, Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez did not commit to a starter for the finale of the three-game set in the nation’s capital, though struggling left-hander Patrick Corbin’s turn in the rotation was up for the third of three with the Marlins this week.
“We’re still TBD right now,” Martinez said. “[Corbin] threw a bullpen today, I’ll talk to him, I’ll talk to [pitching coach Jim] Hickey and we’ll see. I know he wanted to work with some stuff on Corbin in his bullpen today. I have not yet talked to any of them and we’ll see what’s going on.”
Corbin, 32, gave up seven hits, three walks, and seven runs (all earned) in 1 2⁄3 IP in his previous outing, when he faced the San Francisco Giants in Nationals Park last weekend, leaving him with an 11.20 ERA, a 4.45 FIP, 11 walks, 15 strikeouts, and a brutal .381/.480/.524 line against through four starts and 13 2⁄3 IP early this season, after he struggled throughout each of his last two years in the Nats’ rotation as well.
Corbin got his between-starts work in, and before the second of three with the Marlins in D.C., Martinez confirmed, as he’d said previously, they would continue to run the southpaw out there as they try to find a fix for what’s ailed him over the last three years.
“We just wanted to get his bullpen [in],” Martinez said when he was asked about the delay in confirming Corbin would, in fact, take his turn, “... see how he felt after his bullpen.”
“Nothing, just — but just he’ll start tomorrow.”
Martinez also talked at length about the work Corbin and his pitching coach are doing in-between starts to get the veteran lefty’s confidence back up where they think it needs to be for him to be successful.
“His bullpen, his last bullpen was crisp,” Martinez said. “Hickey pushed him to attack his bullpen like he would attack hitters that he’s facing today, so it was good, the balls were down, balls were coming out, he wasn’t trying to overthrow, so hopefully he brings that same intensity today — not that he doesn’t every day, that he has the mentality where he knows what he needs to do, and that’s keep the ball down, use both sides of the plate, throw his slider more for strikes and balls.”
Throwing his slider for competitive strikes, Martinez has reiterated, is one of the keys to get Corbin back where he was in 2018, before he signed a 6-year/$140M deal with the Nats, and in 2019, when he helped the Nationals win the World Series.
“I mean, his slider is good,” Martinez said, “and he’s got good depth on it right now, so we went back and we looked at some of the numbers in ‘19, and his slider is just about the same as it was then, but back then it was more strike-strike-ball, and now it’s ball out of hand, so we got to get him to throw the ball more for strikes, more sliders for strikes, and if he does that, he’ll get those swings and misses or those early contact roll-overs.
“Hopefully, he goes out there today and he puts it all together, but I’ve seen glimpses in his last couple outings of Patrick Corbin of ‘19 and ‘18, so hopefully he goes out there today and does what he’s supposed to do, and that’s keep the ball down, get those early rollovers, and get those ground balls.”
Patrick Corbin’s Line vs Miami: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 Ks, 90 P, 62 S, 4/3 GO/FO.
In what was arguably his best outing, and was, length-wise, his longest start of the season, Corbin held the Marlins to three runs, two earned, on four hits and two walks, striking out a season-high eight of the 25 batters he faced.
An ROE and an RBI double in the third tied things up at 1-1 after the Nationals jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but Corbin held the Marlins off the board after that, completing six strong, before he came back out for the seventh and surrendered a leadoff double by Brian Anderson and hit Miguel Rojas up high in the helmet/chin guard (as Rojas squared to bunt) on his 90th, and final offering of the game.
Corbin fell into a crouch in front of the mound after the hit-by-pitch, clearly upset with the outcome.
Two runs came around to score with Victor Arano on the mound, and the Marlins went up 3-1 on the Nationals after six and a half in what ended up a 3-2 win for the Fish.
“The hit batsman, scared him,” Corbin’s manager said after the game. As you saw, he went down a little bit, but I thought he threw the ball really well today. If he can repeat that in five days, that would be awesome.”
Corbin generated 14 swinging strikes in the outing (seven with his slider), and recorded 18 called strikes (10 with his sinker), and Martinez said it was a clear step in the right direction, with the left-handed leaning on his sinker (46%) and slider (37%), and putting his four-seam away for the most part (6%, down from a season average of 25%).
“We wanted his two-seamer, that’s kind of what we want him to do,” Martinez said. “We want him to stay away from his four-seam fastball. When he’s good, his two-seamer is really good, and it makes his slider that much better, and his changeup (12%, up from 7.2% on the year). Today, his arm action on his changeup was very, very good, and it was something that him and Hickey were working on also in his bullpen.”
And the goal/approach if he’s going to take another step next time out?
“Sinkers down and away,” Martinez said, “…he can mix in every now and then, inside, throw his breaking balls like he did today, and his changeup was good, so he had three good pitches, so if he can continue to do that he’s going to be just fine. Like I said, he looked really good today, so I’m very pleased with what he did today.”