Patrick Corbin's outing on Sunday went the same way many of his starts have gone this season: he struggled.
The lefthander gave up five runs in six innings in a 5-4 loss to the Braves, including allowing three runs in the bottom of the sixth to create a deficit that even an inspired Nationals comeback couldn't overcome.
As the calendar shifts into mid-August, Corbin has the highest ERA among qualified starters at 5.83. He looks like a shell of his former self, particularly the 2019 version that helped Washington win the World Series.
Despite what's been a season to forget for Corbin, Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is confident the 32-year-old will bounce back.
"He works hard. I think he's going to rebound," Zimmerman said. "It seems like he goes through the lineup a couple times and sometimes the third time through they get him. But I don't really worry about him too much."
Corbin will always hold a special place in Nationals' fan's hearts for his play during the World Series run in 2019. The lefthander made multiple clutch relief performances between starts during that run, including throwing three scoreless innings in Game 7 of the World Series.
On Sunday, Zimmerman said that he believes Corbin's frequent use during that title run has impacted his struggles since then.
"I think a lot of people forget he was, for lack of a better word, abused in 2019 in the playoff run," Zimmerman said. "He did things that he has never done before for us to win that World Series. I think people think that you just recover from that, come back the next year and everything is fine."
During MLB's pandemic-shortened season in 2020, Corbin struggled, too. He finished the campaign with a 4.66 ERA and allowed the most hits of any pitcher in the NL.
In spring training this year, Corbin resembled his 2019 self, the same pitcher who finished the year with a 3.25 ERA, 238 strikeouts and 11th in NL Cy Young voting. Then, just as the season was set to begin, Corbin was placed on the COVID-19 IL and missed nearly the next two weeks.
"I'm not making excuses for Pat, but in the beginning of this year, the first 10 or 14 days whatever it was, he was on the COVID [list]. So he basically rehabbed in the big leagues, his first three starts this year," Zimmerman said.
Still, the Nationals' first baseman believes Corbin is "throwing better" over the past month or so, even with the disappointing outing on Sunday.
"I think you've seen the last four or five starts he's throwing 93, 94, 95, I even saw 96 the last start I think," Zimmerman said. "And he's getting a lot more swing and misses on his slider. I'm not worried about Pat."
It's also worth noting that Corbin has been somewhat inconsistent throughout his career. Corbin has turned in four different seasons with a sub-3.61 ERA but has never put in three consecutive seasons with an ERA below four.
Corbin remains under contract for the next three seasons and is owed $82 million still. For the Nationals to become a contender again, they'll need Corbin to be consistently better.