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Washington Nationals’ Patrick Corbin throws eight strong; but defense lets him down...

“For me the story today should be about Patrick, and for me, he’s back.” - Davey Martinez

Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Patrick Corbin’s velocity on his sinker, which he’d thrown 33.7% of the time in 2022 going in to his start against the Colorado Rockies in Coors Field last night, is averaging 91.6 MPH on the year, around where it was in 2019 (91.8), and up from 2020’s 60-game campaign (90.1), though it’s down slightly from where it was last season (92.6).

His spin rate on his slider (2169) is down for the 3rd consecutive year (from 2398 in ‘19, 2241 in ‘20, and 2215 in 2021), but Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning he’s happy with where the southpaw is right now in terms of his fastball velocity and spin rate on his slider early this season, as the 32-year-old tries to turn things around after down years for him in each of the last two years.

“His stuff is good,” Rizzo told the Junkies when asked to assess where Corbin is in the slow process of searching for answers on the mound.

“His fastball velocity is right where we want it to be,” Rizzo explained, “... his slider spin rate is right where we want it to be, his mechanics are solid, to me it call comes down to where the location of the fastball is. He located it well the other day, he pitched in on the plate, on both sides, and he had success, because when he’s ahead in the count, gets ahead with the fastball with either the sinker or the four-seamer, then he can flip that slider in there off the plate and it’s much more tantalizing for hitters to swing at.

Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

“When it’s 2-0, they just don’t swing at that breaking ball off the plate.”

So where is Corbin now in the rebuilding process, as they’ve tried to get him back to being the pitcher he was in 2018, before he signed a 6-year/$140M deal in D.C., and, ‘19, when he helped the Nationals bring a World Series championship to the nation’s capital?

“I think that it’s fairly simple in my assessment for Patrick,” Rizzo said.

“His stuff is still good, his arm is sound, he says he feels better than he has in the last couple of years, so that’s a good thing, and all his metrics are good, and when you’ve got a left-handed pitcher who has velocity and has spin rate on his breaking pitch, and on days where he puts his fastball where he wants to has good success — I think that that’s something to build on, and I think Patrick knows where he has to be and knows he has to be aggressive and attack these hitters and get ahead of them.”

As the GM explained it, it’s not a battle with Corbin to get him on the same page with what his coaches and the analytics department are trying to reinforce. He’s on board with all the tweaks they’re suggesting to get him back where he was a few years ago.

“He agrees, they watch the films together, and obviously all these things are analyzed, and we’ve got slow-motion cameras and all sorts of technology to help us in these evaluations, so yeah, he gets it,” Rizzo said, “he knows it.”

“And it’s a fact that on any given day you have to pound the strike zone and trust your stuff, and get ahead of hitters to set up your breaking ball, which is his wipeout pitch, and I think on given days he’s got to be more consistent with throwing strike one, and being 0-1 instead of 1-0, and I think that’s the big swing in each at-bat is that first opening pitch.”

“Because when he gets ahead of hitters 0-1, you look at that batting average against, and when it’s 1-0 you look at the other side, so it’s really a huge swing on that first pitch.”

In at-bats that start 1-0, hitters have a .370/.485/.482 line against Corbin. And 0-1? It’s still not good, but .311/.415/.467. And when he gets up 0-2? .150/.261/.250. 2-0? .571./750/.571.

You get the point.

Of course, in Coors Field, a lot of that stuff goes out the window.

“Let’s see if his stuff works,” Rizzo said before Corbin’s start against the Rockies.

“He’s pounding the strike zone, again, Colorado is a tough place to pitch, but we’ll tee it up tonight and see what happens.”

What happened, Corbin giving up five runs, three earned, on nine hits in eight innings that he completed on just 94 pitches, can’t completely be put on the Nats’ starter, who worked around some shaky D early, before it caught up to the club in a five-run Rockies fourth that was the difference in a 5-2 win for the home team in Coors Field.

Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Ryan McMahon and Brendan Rogers connected for back-to-back, one-out hits, but Corbin got what looked like an inning-ending double play out of Yonathan Daza, only to have Nats’ shortstop Alcides Escobar boot the grounder, and with the bases loaded, José Iglesias and Connor Joe connected on two-run hits, Iglesias a double, and Joe a triple that brought four runs in before an RBI groundout by Charlie Blackmon made it five.

Corbin recorded just six swinging strikes, four with his slider, on the night, but he recorded 18 called strikes, nine with his sinker, and he induced 17 groundouts from Rockies’ hitters in an efficient outing which impressed his manager.

“I mean, forget about the outcome of the game,” Martinez said after the loss, “Patrick was awesome today. He did everything we asked him to do, he attacked the strike zone, he had six innings with 15 pitches or less, faced 24 batters with three pitches or less, I mean, you can’t ask for more than what he did today, and he finished the game. With that being said, and I’ve said this and I preach it every day. We’ve got to catch the ball. We’ve got to catch the ball. And we didn’t do that today, and it’s kind of is upsetting because of what Patrick did, but we’ve got to play defense. That’s the name of the game for us, we’ve got to play defense, and we didn’t do it tonight.”