WASHINGTON — A theme with Patrick Corbin’s pitching has been “getting back to 2019 form.” It was during that season he went 14-7 with a 3.25 ERA and threw 23 1/3 innings in the Nationals’ championship run.
Two-and-a-half years have passed since Corbin last faced the Astros on Oct. 30, 2019, when he covered three scoreless innings out of the bullpen in Game 7 of the World Series. He has struggled in the years since then, and he entered Sunday a combined 11-28 in 49 starts dating back to 2020.
But Corbin has been on an upswing as of late after getting into a rhythm with catcher Riley Adams, including a 3.60 ERA in his last four starts (including Sunday) and his first scoreless performance of the season in his previous outing against the Mets on Tuesday.
When he took the mound for a rematch with Houston on Saturday, Corbin tossed six-plus innings, yielding five runs (all earned) on six hits, three of which were home runs, with two walks and five strikeouts. He delivered 86 pitches (54 strikes) in the Nationals’ 7-0 loss at Nationals Park.
“2019, right now, doesn’t look really any different than what [Corbin is] doing right now, it really doesn’t,” manager Dave Martinez said. “His sliders are better, his spin rate’s better on his slider, he’s keeping the ball down. It’s just repeating that inning after inning.”
Repetition is key for Corbin’s success. He opened the afternoon with a 1-2-3 inning, threw a scoreless second (two hits), retired the side again in the third and gave up just one hit in the fourth. Corbin issued his first walk of the game in the fifth, followed by a home run to Martín Maldonado in the next at-bat. He surrendered a homer in each of the following two frames before exiting two batters into the seventh.
“[Corbin] did really well for the first four innings,” Martinez said. “He walks a guy and just makes one mistake, [Maldonado] hits a home run. Then again, OK, we’re down 2-0. But then he comes back out there and then everything started getting up on him. … I like where he’s at, because he’s attacking the strike zone and he had [thrown] like 77 pitches going into the sixth inning. If he can continue to do that and we score him some runs, we’ll be in really good shape.”
The Nationals were held hitless by Astros starter Justin Verlander through five frames and were unable to plate a run in the loss, which accentuated the season-high trio of homers allowed by Corbin in later innings. Corbin focused on the good pitches he threw, and he said he was not discouraged by the results.
“I guess that’s how it looked today, giving up a couple runs later,” Corbin said. “But I still felt really good. I felt strong, even when I was coming out. I think the last at-bat there on the homer (to Chas McCormick) were probably my two worst changeups of the day, but I still felt pretty solid even before that.”
Even though it has been two full seasons since Corbin and the Nationals defeated the Astros in the World Series, every player involved is linked to the epic, seven-game battle. Corbin still thinks back to that triumph, but sees Houston as just another opponent when he steps on to the field.
“Obviously, that was a great year,” Corbin said. “But I don’t know if I ever look that far back. You just try to come here, try to get better, and that’s really whether you have a good game, bad game. You just try to improve and go out there and compete, whether it’s the Astros or anybody. That’s just how I feel.”