Davey Martinez talked all spring about wanting Patrick Corbin to put the past two seasons and his struggles on the mound in them behind him.
Corbin, 32, and headed into the fourth year of his 6-year/$140M deal with the Nationals, got the nod as Washington’s Opening Day starter as the club kicks off its organizational reboot.
How did Martinez decide on the southpaw as his Opening Day starter?
“Honestly, for me, he deserves it,” the fifth-year manager said. “He really does. And as I watched him go through Spring Training, he came to Spring Training with everything we thought we tried to get him to do, and he did well. And so, I’m excited to get him out there, and he’s done it before, so it’s a big day for him and his family, and for us. I’m looking for Corbin to be the guy that he was in ‘19, and he’s worked really hard this winter to be that guy again.”
Corbin put up a 3.25 ERA, a 3.49 FIP, 70 walks (3.12 BB/9), and 238 Ks (10.60 K/9) in 33 starts and 202 IP back in 2019, then started and came out of the pen in the postseason, but after he finished with a 5.82 ERA, 5.41 FIP, 60 walks (3.15 BB/9), 143 Ks (7.50 K/9), and a .286/.345/.510 line against in 31 starts and 171 2⁄3 innings pitched in 2021, the lefty had a combined 4.47 ERA, 4.34 FIP, 148 walks, and 441 Ks over 75 starts and 439 1⁄3 IP in his first three seasons with the Nationals before last night.
“I think that he recommitted this year, and his stuff looks good down in Spring Training, he’s pitching well,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday.
“He’s stretched out very nicely, and I think we’re going to have a good bounce-back season from Patrick.”
Going into last night’s outing, Corbin said he was excited to pitch in the atmosphere of the season opener.
“You’re excited, obviously,” he told reporters. “It’s going to feel like a playoff game out there, but I’m prepared to go out there and just be myself. I know what I’m capable of doing.”
Having started once previously on Opening Day, back in 2018 in Arizona, Corbin said he felt confident he could channel the energy and stay focused on the task at hand.
“You’re going to be feeling pretty good out there, so my job is to get ahead of these guys and throw quality pitches, and hopefully it’s coming out like that.”
“I like that feeling to go out there and compete,” he said. “And when you’re prepared, that’s what you love. I love to compete against guys. Was hoping Max [Scherzer] was going to be out there, but it’s going to be fun either way.”
Martinez said he just wanted the lefty to go out there and compete against the Mets’ lineup.
“He had a good Spring Training,” the manager said before last night’s game. “He’s built up, so there’s no limitations on him going into today, so we’ll see what happens.”
“He’s worked on a lot of different things,” the manager added.
“He’s a lot stronger I think this year than he’s ever been, he’s worked on some things in Spring Training, he worked on some things that we asked him to work on with [pitching coach Jim] Hickey, so I told him from Day 1, ‘Hey, this is a brand new year. Let’s put what happened in the past behind us and move forward. There’s nothing we can do now, you learn from it, and now it’s time to move on.’
“I told him, I said, ‘You’re a good pitcher, you’re a very good pitcher, if it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t have won the World Series, honestly,’ I mean, he was one of the guys that helped us get through, so, ‘Just be that guy. I know you can be that guy.’ Like I said, it’s a brand new season, and I’m looking for him to go out there and compete.”
Corbin started strong in the fourth year in D.C., throwing four scoreless innings on just 61 pitches, but Robinson Canó bunted for a hit against the shift to lead off the top of the fifth, and a walk to Mark Cahna and single by Jeff McNeil followed as the visiting New York Mets loaded the bases with no one out, before a hit-by-pitch on a 2-2 slider to NY catcher James McCann forced in the first run of the game and ended the starter’s outing after 76 pitches overall.
Another run scored before reliever Victor Arano got the Nationals out of the top of the fifth with the Mets up 2-0 in what ended up a 5-1 win for the visiting team.
Patrick Corbin’s Line: 4.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 76 P, 44 S, 4/1 GO/FO.
Corbin’s manager liked what he saw from the starter in the first four innings of his outing.
“I loved it,” he qualified. “I mean, he utilized all his pitches. He threw some really good changeups, which is something that he really wanted to do this year, he threw some good ones, and … just one inning — it all started with the bunt, and then the walk, and then a hit batsmen, but … today was a long day for everyone, so we’ll come back — get some rest and come back tomorrow and play baseball again.”
“I felt pretty good the whole game,” Corbin said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after the game.
“I thought the fastball command was good. I was able to mix it up. Just in that fifth (inning) there, frustrated with the walk to get a couple guys on. That got the pitch count up there and kind of got me into a jam.”
Martinez noted that Corbin working down in the zone as he did against the Mets was exactly what he wanted to see.
“Yes, very much so, I thought he did well, and I think overall, if you look back, I know he was upset because of the hit batsman with two strikes, and the walk, but like I said, it a long day for him, so I’ll talk to him tomorrow, and if we can build off of those first four innings with him, he’s going to help us win a lot of games.”