WASHINGTON -- Patrick Corbin was keeping track of batters as the innings added up. He hadn’t thrown more than five frames in Spring Training or Summer Camp this year, and a flurry of 1-2-3 innings was expediting his first start of the 2020 season.
“I was just trying to go out there and throw strikes, quality strikes against this team, try to minimize as many mistakes as I could,” Corbin said. “[I] felt good for the first time out there, being able to go out there, throw strikes and try to be as efficient as I can.”
Corbin leaned on and stifled the Yankees with his go-to pitch on Sunday in the Nationals’ 3-2 loss at Nationals Park. Corbin’s slider accounted for 31 of his 75 total pitches and 10 of his 13 swinging strikes as he fanned eight and allowed one run on two hits in his 6 1/3-inning start.
“He gave us all he had for as long as he could,” manager Dave Martinez said.
Corbin quieted the Yankees by retiring the side in order in each of the opening three frames. He retired the first 11 batters before Gleyber Torres singled into center field with two outs in the fourth to break up the perfect game.
The lefty went back into cruise control after that. Corbin retired the next eight in a row before Torres got to him again, this time with a homer to left in the seventh, chasing him from the game.
“He throws all the breaking-ball pitches really well,” Torres said. “He [had] really good command. ... He dominated really well with the slider, so I tried to be ready for the fastball. He threw one to me, and when I get that opportunity, I do damage.”
A rested Nationals bullpen only had to account for 2 2/3 innings after Corbin departed with a 2-1 lead. But Will Harris gave up a game-tying homer to Luke Voit later in the seventh in his Nats debut. The following inning, Sean Doolittle surrendered the go-ahead run on an RBI single by Torres, saying after the game he was “super frustrated” by his results.
“Corbin was dealing; he was effective on both sides,” Voit said. “It was nice to finally get that monkey off our back and get going. We were waiting for Gleyber to break out, and today he finally broke out in a clutch way. It was nice to get Corbin out of the game and get into their bullpen.”
Last season, Corbin threw a slider 37.1% of the time, per Statcast. He also paced the Majors in 2019 by recording 161 of his 238 strikeouts with his preferred pitch. On Sunday, Corbin’s slider averaged 79.3 mph.
While Corbin said he felt "pretty gassed" when he exited the field, he feels like he has built up to the point where he could reach 90-plus pitches. He credited catcher Yan Gomes for an efficient strategy that resulted in him throwing only 75 pitches.
"I thought Yan did such a great job in our game plan ... just kind of being smart with some of these guys,” Corbin said. “They’ve got some power hitters in that lineup. You know they’re out there swinging, so you have to be on your game. One mistake can lead to a homer. ... I think today my fastball command was pretty solid, so that’s another positive to take away from this. I feel pretty good right now, so just hope to continue to build off of it."
Though the stands inside Nationals Park were empty, Corbin had plenty of his biggest fans watching the game. He grew up four hours north of Yankee Stadium in upstate New York, and eyes were on his second career start against his home-state team.
“Having family there, I know a lot of my family back in Syracuse was watching this today,” he said. “It’s just good to have baseball back to where friends, family and the fans back home enjoy it.”