Patrick Corbin’s 2022 season came to a close this afternoon. It was another one with less-than-satisfactory results for the presumptive “ace” of this Nationals staff.
The day started with some confusion and uncertainty. With this game meaning a lot to the Phillies, who entered with a 1/2 game lead over the Brewers for the final National League wild card spot, and bad weather forecasted for most of the day, there was concern that we could be in for a long day at the ballpark.
The Nationals, Phillies and Major League Baseball discussed this morning all possible scenarios, including the idea of starting the game either an hour or 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled 1:35 p.m. start time.
But the weather cleared up enough for Corbin’s first pitch to be thrown as planned. The next question was if they could finish without any delays. They could not, with a rain delay that lasted one hour and 28 minutes before the final result of an 8-1 loss for the Nationals in six innings in front of an announced crowd of 32,789 on a cold and rainy afternoon on South Capitol Street.
“There was like a chance, I think, of a 12:30 p.m. start and then they said we're on time," Corbin said after the game. "It is what it is. Nothing you can really do about it. They tell you the game is going, and you go out there and try to do your best.”
It was a long day all around. It probably felt longer for Corbin on the mound as he put up another miserable stat line to finish another miserable season.
“I felt good. Back felt good," Corbin said after missing his last turn in the rotation while dealing with back spasms from his previous start. "Just a tough day overall, a tough weekend just with everything with the rain. Just trying to get them in and I think that was the case today. They just wanted to get it in and just tough conditions for sure. Just trying to deal with it, but definitely altered some of my pitches and probably some other things.”
“I was a bit concerned," manager Davey Martinez said of playing through the sloppy conditions. "Especially when it started really, you know, for a minute there it started really coming down and then I got a little worried. Because it really was bad. The guys complained they couldn't see very well. There were times where I saw Patrick not be able to land in his foot. So I started getting a little worried. But they wanted to keep playing.”
The Phillies took an early lead in the second on Bryson Stott’s RBI grounder with the bases loaded and one out. Luis García and CJ Abrams tried to turn a double play, but the throw from the shortstop to first base was not in time.
In the fourth, Corbin gave up a two-run double to Stott, who also came around to score on Bryce Harper’s single to center to give the Phillies a 4-0 lead.
Corbin then loaded the bases again in the fifth. The ball on Kyle Schwarber's base hit died in the wet outfield grass, resulting in a three-run single and a 7-0 Phillies lead.
“I thought he threw the ball fairly well early," Martinez said. "And then he got hit a little bit. ... Just one of those days. He threw a couple of balls I thought were pretty good pitches.”
That’s the way Corbin's day (and season) finished with two outs in the fifth, as Martinez brought in Jordan Weems from the bullpen.
Corbin’s final line: 10 hits, seven runs, three walks, three strikeouts and a hit batter over 4 ⅔ innings. He ends the season with a 6.31 ERA and 1.697 WHIP in 152 ⅔ innings over his 31 starts. He also leads the major leagues with 19 losses, 210 hits and 107 earned runs.
“I will say this though, the last five or six starts, he threw the ball well for us," Martinez said. "And I'm proud of him. He's been working all year long to get back to what we felt like he can compete and then give us a chance to win the games. And he did that today.”
With this outing, Corbin has become the first major league pitcher since Omar Daal with the Diamondbacks and Phillies in 2000 to finish a season with 19 losses and an ERA over 6.00. George Caster in 1940, Elon Hogsett in 1937 and Pat Caraway in 1931 are the only other pitchers to do so in the modern era (1900-present).
“There's probably quite a bit," Corbin said when asked what he wishes he could improve on from this season. "I think as a starter, always trying to go out there your fifth day is something that I've always wanted to do. I don't think the numbers obviously were great. As a team, obviously, we want to improve on a lot of things. But finished the season healthy. I know my stuff is still there. So just looking forward to maybe tweaking a couple things for next year.”
J.T. Realmuto hit a solo homer in the sixth inning off Weems for the Phillies’ last score.
The Nationals couldn’t do anything offensively against Phillies starter Zack Wheeler, who pitched a gem for the visiting side. The veteran right-hander held the Nats to just two hits over five scoreless innings while striking out seven.
Joey Meneses scored Lane Thomas on a groundout against righty reliever Andrew Bellatti in the sixth for the Nats’ only run.
The lack of offensive output was nothing new for the Nats against an NL East opponent: They have been outhomered by the Phillies and Braves 83-27 this season.
The Nats went 3-16 against the Phillies this year, which is the most losses they’ve ever suffered against one opponent in a single season. And that will stand as a record with the changes coming to the schedule structure next year.
This loss drops the Nationals to 55-104 on the season, which is a new club record for losses in a single year. The previous worst record in club history was 59-103 in 2009.
But once again, today was about the Nationals starter. Since being credited as the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series, Corbin is 17-41 with a 5.82 ERA over 73 starts.
“Like I said, me being more consistent," Corbin said. "I don't know if I have one thing. Just try to be more competitive, throw quality pitches. Maybe trying to finish guys when I get ahead of them with two strikes and keeping the ball in the ballpark. So just a combination of a lot. I think overall it was a tough season, but trying to learn from it and move on.”
Those numbers, and the ones remaining on the six-year, $140 million contract he signed in 2018, once again make the southpaw one of the Nats’ biggest question marks over the offseason.
“He struggled in the beginning, as we all know," Martinez said of Corbin's season. "And then all of a sudden, like I said, the last five, six, seven starts, he started understanding what he needs to do, how he needs to pitch. And he threw the ball well and he kept us in the games, which was awesome. That's a testament to him continuing to work with (pitching coach Jim) Hickey. I thought Hickey did a great job of getting him to understand that he needs another pitch to work. And then he started throwing his changeup a lot more. I thought his slider today, a few of them were really, really good. Really sharp. And he understands now that he needs to keep the ball down to be effective.
"And for the most part, he did that over those last five or six starts. I got a good feeling that next spring we'll get him, he comes in, he's in shape, he gets ready, that we'll see a different Corbin. The Corbin that we saw in '19.”