Patrick Corbin tosses gem in win vs. Pirates to keep Nationals’ rotation rolling

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Corbin tosses gem vs. Pirates to keep Nats’ rotation rolling originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Even when Patrick Corbin was at his best with the Nationals in 2019, he never struck out a dozen batters in a game. The Nationals’ left-hander hasn’t since looked like the pitcher who played a key role in their World Series run very often, but he put together a vintage performance against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night.

Corbin tied his career-high with 12 strikeouts, scattering five hits and two walks over eight innings. The only damage Pittsburgh managed against him came on a solo home run by right fielder Diego Castillo in the sixth. Despite the long ball tying the game at 1-1 with Corbin sitting on a high pitch count, he came back to retire the final seven hitters he faced including three strikeouts in the eighth.

“Tonight, he was good with everything,” manager Davey Martinez said in his postgame press conference, as aired on MASN. “His fastball was electric. His slider was awesome. He worked ahead in counts. He only fell behind and put one ball up for the home run but other than that he was money all day. If we get that every five days from Corbin we’re gonna be good.”

Perhaps the most impressive development from Corbin was the effectiveness of his slider. Once one of the best sliders thrown by a southpaw in the majors, the pitch induced 14 whiffs on 19 attempts for a staggering swing-and-miss rate of 74%. His 81.9 mph average velocity and spin rate of 2,205 revolutions per minute on the slider were both above his season averages.

With the 3-1 win, Washington (29-48) clinched its third-straight victory and sixth in its last eight games. The Nationals also locked up their second consecutive series win after taking two of three from the Texas Rangers over the weekend, marking the first time all season they’ve won back-to-back series.

The recent run of success has been backed by strong starting pitching. Including Corbin’s gem Tuesday, the Nationals’ rotation owns a 1.66 ERA since June 18 to lead all of baseball over that span.

While most of these starts have come against less-than-formidable lineups in the Orioles, Rangers and Pirates, this is the same rotation that entered play Tuesday with the highest starters’ ERA in the majors at 5.65. The Nationals will certainly take any signs of improvement, especially after losing both Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross to significant injuries earlier this month.

Josiah Gray has made a bid for NL Pitcher of the Month with a 1.13 ERA over four outings with 28 strikeouts to just eight walks. Jackson Tetreault, only called up from Triple-A to make a couple of spot starts, earned a shot at a regular rotation spot with a pair of strong performances. Erick Fedde has allowed three runs or fewer in four straight starts and Paolo Espino has continued to answer the call for whatever role Martinez puts him in.

Heading into Tuesday’s game, Corbin was the only starter who hadn’t put together an effective outing during this run. That all changed against Pittsburgh when he matched a strikeout total he hadn’t hit since his final year with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2018. Martinez has maintained his confidence in Corbin despite his tumultuous last few seasons and, for one day at least, the starter backed his skipper up.

“He’s been one of the guys since he’s been here and I’ve always felt that way no matter what kind of outing he has,” Martinez said. “Without him, we wouldn’t have done what we done in ’19. I know he’s struggled but I really believe that he’s got the stuff to continue to be really good and you saw it today.”