Corbin vs Detroit:
Patrick Corbin gave up 14 runs (12 ER) in his first three starts and 14 innings pitched early this this season, but after three years of struggles in which it seemed at times he’d never sort things out, the now-33-year-old lefty has found a way.
Over six starts and 36 1⁄3 IP going into yesterday’s outing, Corbin had allowed 17 runs, 14 earned, posting a 3.47 ERA, 3.85 FIP, and a .260/.278/.390 line against over that stretch.
It was a welcome run for the southpaw who helped Washington win the World Series in the first year of his 6-year/$140M deal with the Nationals ‘19, but was not the same pitcher from 2020-2022.
“He’s attacking the strike zone,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said after Corbin held the NY Mets to two runs on eight hits in a six-inning, 97-pitch outing last Monday.
“What I like too,” the manager added, “he’s using his changeups very effectively, and I think it’s helping him, because now they can’t just sit on the balls in, so it’s helping his slider, it’s helping his fastball, when he throws it in, his two-seamer, so that’s another weapon that he has that they have to be aware of.”
Opposing hitters had a .250 AVG on his changeup going into Saturday’s game, down from .380 in 2022, though he’d thrown it the same percentage of the time, 8.3%. Hitters had a .356 AVG on his sinker, which was actually up from ‘22 (.315 AVG), but his BAA on his slider (.175) was down considerably (.309) from last year, and he’d thrown it more (35.0 %, up from .29.4% in ‘22), while throwing fewer four-seam fastballs (10.9% vs 16.9%, which is probably good — .353 BAA, up a bit from last year, .333).
Going up against Detroit’s Tigers, Corbin fell behind early, giving up a leadoff hit on a first-pitch sinker, and then a 2-out, 2-run home run, with Matt Vierling shooting one back up the middle to start the game, and scoring two outs later when Spencer Torkelson hit a 1-0 four-seamer out to left, 401 ft. from home, for a 2-0 lead after a half-inning.
Corbin worked around a leadoff single in the second, and a two-out error in the top of the third, holding it at 2-0. He came out for the fourth at 39 pitches, and the lefty gave up a 1-out single, but got a little help from his shortstop on an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play, with CJ Abrams ranging deep into the hole at short for Miguel Cabrera’s sharp ground ball, throwing it quickly to Ildemaro Vargas for the first out of the twin-killing.
A quick, 13-pitch fifth, in which he worked around a leadoff single, left Corbin at 61 pitches overall on the afternoon, and he came out for the sixth up 3-2, and Torkelson singled with one out for his second hit off the Nats’ starter, but the southpaw stranded him two outs later in a 13-pitch frame which left him at 74 for the game.
Patrick Corbin’s Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 74 P, 49 S, 7/5 GO/FO.
Corbin collected 11 swinging strikes, six with his slider, and got seven called strikes, five on his sinker, in a solid outing overall.
“Patrick Corbin was good,” his manager said after the 5-2 win. “Other than the home run, I mean, he threw the ball really, really well.”
“He settled in,” Martinez said of Corbin rebounding from the early home run. “He started throwing his changeups a little bit more. Slider was good today, slider was really effective.”
But the key, the skipper said, was, “keeping the ball down. I think that [home run pitch] was probably the only pitch he threw up that got hit, he’s got to keep the ball down.”
• Jeimer Candelario’s streak of four-straight multi-hit games (over which he went 10 for 15 with 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR) was snapped with an 0 for 4 in the series opener with the Tigers on Friday night, but he homered the second time up on Saturday afternoon, taking a 1-0 changeup down the middle from Tigers’ righty Alex Faedo 390 ft. to right-center field to get the Nationals within one, 2-1, after they fell behind by two runs early in the nation’s capital.
middle, middle: cookie ❌— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 20, 2023
middle, middle: Candy ✅ pic.twitter.com/J1K9xsxdip
• CJ Abrams lined an 0-1 slider to left field, slicing one that stayed fair and sent Idlemaro Vargas around to third after a one-out single in the previous at-bat. With two runners in scoring position, Alex Call grounded out to third base unproductively, but Lane Thomas hit an 0-1 slider inside by a diving Tigers’ shortstop Javier Báez to drive in both runners and put the home team ahead, 3-2.
• Corey Dickerson skipped a ground-rule double over the right field fence with two out in the Nats’ sixth, on a first-pitch slider from Tigers’ reliever Tyler Holton, and he scored on a single to right by Keibert Ruiz, 4-2, though the catcher was thrown out trying for second after the run scored.
• Carl Edwards, Jr. walked the first batter he faced in the seventh, [Everyone: “CARL!!!”], but stranded the runner three outs later to keep it a 4-2 game, and Hunter Harvey was heated up in the eighth, with a strikeout and two groundouts in a 14-pitch inning in which he was at 100 MPH average on the 12 fastballs he threw.
Kyle Finnegan finished off the win with a 1-2-3 frame in the ninth. Ballgame.
Why was it Harvey in the eighth and Finnegan in the ninth this time?
“I liked Harvey and that group of guys,” the manager said of the matchups. “As we’ve talked about before, you know, I like just the matchups for the eighth and ninth with those two guys. I like the velo, the big-time velo, and balls up on Javy [Báez] and those guys. So Harvey got that group [in the eighth].”
BACK PAGE - Roster Moves:
In the semi-regular practice he’s started of providing injury updates for reporters, Davey Martinez on Friday talked about Chad Kuhl’s work in a sim game as the veteran pitcher’s return from an issue with right foot metatarsalgia neared.
“Chad Kuhl felt great,” Martinez said. “He’s going to throw a little bit here, and we’ll probably figure out the next plan here in the next couple days.”
“When he threw the other day — we were trying to keep him on his five-day [schedule], but he threw the ball really well his last time, the sim game that he threw. We’ll reevaluate him.
“He’s going to throw a little bit today, and then we’ll come up with a plan.”
Would the 30-year-old veteran, who put up a 9.41 ERA, a 6.93 FIP, and a .318/.415/.624 line against in five starts and 22 IP before landing on the IL on May 1st, return to the rotation?
Would Jake Irvin continue to pitch in the big league rotation?
“I’m going to sit down with [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey, talk to [GM Mike Rizzo] a little bit more about it, and then see where we’re at,” Martinez said on Friday morning.
The move came before yesterday’s game:
#Nats: The Nationals reinstated right-handed pitcher Chad Kuhl from the 15-day Injured List and optioned right-handed pitcher Hobie Harris to Triple-A Rochester.— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) May 20, 2023
“It gives us length in the bullpen,” Martinez said in his pregame press conference before the second of three with the Tigers in Nationals Park, “... which will be nice, but he’s just coming back, so I want to make sure as we do this that he probably gets clean innings, but he definitely gives us multiple innings if we need them. You know the last sim game he threw the ball exceptionally well. He was up in the mid-90s with his fastball, was throwing strikes, his slider was really, really good, so that was encouraging, so we’ll get him in the bullpen, and get him going, and then we’ll see where it takes us.”
Hobie Harris, coming off of his 2 1⁄3-inning, 39-pitch outing on Friday, was not going to be available, and the manager said there are things for the 29-year-old reliever to work on at Triple-A.
“He threw a lot yesterday. He’s going to go down there and work on his fastball command a little bit. I like his mix of pitches, I liked the way he handled himself, great clubhouse guy, so I don’t think it will be the last time I see Hobie around.”
As for sticking with Irvin in the rotation, after he struggled in the series opener (giving up five hits, four walks, and six runs, four earned, in 2 2⁄3 IP in his start on Friday), Martinez said the 26-year-old would get an opportunity to stay around for a while and figure things out.
“Yeah, we definitely want to give Jake a longer look. ... To me, Jake has a lot of upside, and I think he’s only scratching the surface right now, but his stuff is good. His stuff if real good.
“Yesterday, just uncharacteristic. His breaking ball he couldn’t throw for strikes, he was a little erratic with his fastball. So we’ll get him back, honed in, I know Hickey, we saw some videos, and we’re going to talk to him about a couple of things and then get him back out there.”
In Friday night’s losing effort, Lane Thomas went 1 for 3 with a homer, two RBIs, a walk, and a run scored, extending his career-best 16-game on-base streak (21 for 65, .323 AVG, four walks) with the free pass in the fourth, and connecting for a hit in the 14th of those previous 16 games in the home-half of the sixth.
Thomas’s home run was his 6th this season, all of them in May.
“He’s got to be aggressive, and that’s what he’s doing,” Davey Martinez said when he talked about Thomas’s run in his post game presser following the series opener.
“He’s getting his A-swing off almost every pitch,” the manager added.
“Even when he fouls the ball off it’s been a good swing, so don’t worry about the breaking balls, get ready to hit the fastballs, and that’s what he’s been doing.”
Martinez admitted, before the second of three with the Tigers, the power from Thomas since they acquired him at the trade deadline in 2021 (31 HRs in 235 games, including a career-high 17 HRs in 146 games in 2022), has been, “a little bit surprising.”
“We knew he was a guy that could hit the ball to all fields, we knew he could be a doubles guy,” Martinez explained. “The home runs? The key with him is getting ready to hit the fastball, and hitting ball out front. His contact point has to be out front. When he does that, he hits the ball really hard. It doesn’t matter where it is. We saw him in Miami hit the ball, a home run to right field, but the key is for him to get ready to hit the fastball and catch everything out front, and when you see that — if he continues to do that, last year showed that he could hit 20+ home runs a year, and I think he can do that, and like I said, the consistency with him is going to be the key.”
Thomas finished the night with a .303 AVG on fastballs this season, up from .247 on the year in 2022, with three of his six home runs on heaters of one variety or another, and he singled to start the bottom of the first yesterday, extending his on-base streak to 17-straight games (with hits in 15 of the 17 games), before driving in two runs with his second hit of the night in the Nats’ half of the fifth inning to put the home team ahead 3-2 in what ended up a 5-2 win.
Thomas added a leadoff double (7) in the bottom of the eighth, and finished up 3 for 4 with the double and two RBIs. Candelario drove him in with a double of his own, 5-2.
“When he gets ready to hit the fastball he’s really good,” Martinez said, “... and he’ll stay consistent, but he’s got to get ready to hit the fastball and just stay in the middle of the field. He’s crushing balls to left-center field, which is nice to see, and that only tells me that he’s getting ready early, and he’s on the fastballs, where he’s able to stay back on breaking balls as well. He’s seeing the ball really well right now.
“And it’s good. He’s getting us going. He’s had a good run thus far, so hopefully he stays that way for a while.”