Nationals

Corbin ‘back to myself’ with bounce-back start vs. Cards

Nationals
Patrick Corbin
Vin Scully shows off his World Series ring

On Tuesday night, Patrick Corbin was Patrick Corbin again.

The Nationals’ left-hander needed a strong start against the St. Louis Cardinals after allowing 15 earned runs over just six and third innings between his first two outings. Washington, down two of the five starting pitchers from its rotation, needed a stopper after Joe Ross failed to build off his strong start to the season in a 12-5 loss to the Cardinals on Monday.

Corbin delivered, tossing six scoreless on four hits and no walks with five strikeouts. While he threw just 76 pitches and could’ve gone deeper into the game, Nationals manager Davey Martinez said on a Zoom call postgame that he wanted to protect his starter in light of the team’s other pitcher injuries and let Corbin leave on a good note.

“This is Pat Corbin right now,” Martinez said. “He threw the ball really, really well. Moving forward it was good to see so now I think he can settle down, he knows who he is and he goes forward and he pitches the way he’s capable of pitching.”

Exactly who Corbin is was in question after his first two starts. The two-time All-Star, who’s three years into a $140 million contract with Washington, had walked more batters (seven) than he struck out (six) while serving up four home runs. He had ditched his usual reliance on his slider for more four-seam fastballs and changeups — with little success.

Leading up to his start Tuesday, Martinez said he wanted Corbin to get back to using his slider and cut down on those changeups. He followed through, throwing just three changeups compared to 31 sliders. The formula proved successful as he allowed just three singles and a double after giving up six extra-base hits over his first two appearances.

 

“I think the biggest thing [was] simplifying things, getting back to the pitcher that I am,” Corbin said. “I know we worked on a lot of things in spring and you try to go in the game, execute those things. But, I don’t know, you just kinda go back to your strengths is really the main thing and everyone knows that’s my slider, fastball command.

“Just really wanted to simplify things, get back to it. The first thing after my last outing when I sat down there and talked to Yan [Gomes], those were the first things that we said to each other.”

With Stephen Strasburg landing on the 10-Day Injured List on Sunday and Jon Lester still building up his arm after being added to the COVID IL just before the season began, the Nationals need Corbin to be the ace he signed up to be during the 2018-19 offseason.

Not only did he look more like himself Tuesday, he pitched more like himself too. Martinez hopes that’s a tweak that can help Corbin put his rough start behind him.

“You’re always talking about hitters and how they fall into a funk and everybody notices how they could go 3-for-20 or 5-for-30,” Martinez said. “The same thing happens to pitchers too. They fall into a little funk like that and they try different things and then they realize that, ‘You know what? I need to go back to who I am or what I do best.’ And I think Corbin did that tonight.”