Corbin joins Clemens, Kazmir with rare strikeout feat

July 9th, 2023

WASHINGTON -- Nationals left-hander set the tone early, striking out the first four batters he faced and cruising to a 7-2 victory over the Rangers at Nationals Park in Sunday’s series finale.

Even more impressive: those four strikeouts to begin the game came against American League All-Stars Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Josh Jung and Adolis García.

Before Corbin, only twice in the Expansion Era (since 1961) had a starting pitcher struck out the first four batters he faced in a game, with all four batters having been named to the All-Star Game that season.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Roger Clemens accomplished the feat on September 3, 2002, against the Red Sox, striking out Johnny Damon, Shea Hillenbrand, Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez. The Rays’ Scott Kazmir did it on May 26, 2008, against the Rangers, fanning Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley.

But performances like these have not come often for Corbin since his sensational debut season with the Nats during their World Series run in 2019.

Corbin (6-10) has dropped an MLB-leading 45 games since the start of 2021. But he now has two wins in his last three decisions, coming on a pair of seven-inning outings.

"He is a professional,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He went from being a champion to all of a sudden having a team that is rebuilding, and he's that guy. He's positive. He helps our young guys out. To see him doing what he is doing now, this is the Corbin I've seen in the past.”

The two-time All-Star cruised through three frames, dispatching 10 consecutive batters before allowing back-to-back singles to Seager and Jung in the fourth inning.

He held the Rangers to one run on five hits over seven frames, utilizing a combination of well-located four-seam fastballs and sinkers and sharp sliders to pick up six strikeouts.

"The main thing is getting ahead of some of these guys [with] quality pitches,” Corbin said. "[I] got some strikeouts early, and then was around the zone, got them to expand a little bit and got some weak contact.”

The 33-year-old’s Sunday start was a fitting addendum to his June 28 win in Seattle, when he recorded two strikeouts in the first inning on the way to seven shutout innings and nine K’s in a 4-1 victory over the Mariners.

"I’ve been feeling good,” Corbin said. “Just continue to try to repeat this as best I can. The command early in counts, getting ahead, using all four corners there with the fastball against these guys, with a deep lineup where one mistake, you can give up a homer. Just a quality start, and [I'm] looking forward to continuing to do that."

Corbin is 32-3 in 39 starts since 2019 when he throws at least six innings and receives at least three runs of support. The Nats are 37-3 in those games.

“His devastating slider, when it's on, you can't hit,” first baseman Dominic Smith said. “It looks like a strike, and it's just off the zone. You could see it today. That's a great lineup over there, and he was able to pretty much hold them to something that we can overcome."

The Nationals offense took care of business for Corbin in the fifth and sixth frames, tallying five runs on eight hits highlighted by a solo shot from Smith and a two-run single by Alex Call.

Joey Meneses and Stone Garrett added solo homers in the seventh. CJ Abrams finished 3-for-5 with an RBI.

The Nats enter the break 36-54 after their third series win at home, and their first since May 21 against Detroit. They were 31-63 at the break in 2022. Martinez was pleased to see his club finish the first half strong.

"It's awesome, because we have three of our young pitchers in the rotation,” Martinez said. “Pretty young bullpen. Some of our young guys are getting better. They are stepping up. Keibert [Ruiz], Luis [García], CJ [Abrams] -- and I still consider Lane [Thomas] young, because he really hasn't played much. These guys are all learning, and they are getting better.

“I know in the future, we’ll start to get some of these other young kids, start adding little pieces here and there, -- we are going to compete. We’re going to compete to get in those playoffs again. This group here is the stepping stone right now. It's been fun."