Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin used his slider, mixing it at different speeds, and rode a huge early lead to dismantle the Mets 16-4 in the first game of a four-game series Monday night at Citi Field.
New York was held to five hits with Corbin on the hill. The left-hander used his slower slider early in counts, and then turned the velocity up later in at-bats to baffle the Mets lineup. He struck out four, allowing doubles to Jeff McNeil and Wilson Ramos. But those were the only two baserunners to get in scoring position with Corbin in the mound in the first five innings.
"To see the offense come out like that ... those are the games you like to pitch in and see (the scoreboard) with those big leads," Corbin said on a postgame Zoom video call. "Slider has felt good this whole season so far. It's been my pitch, able to throw it for strikes, locate it. Right now, I think location has been really important for me. Still feeling the body is trying to ramp up here and get things going, but I am happy where we are at right now."
Surprisingly, Corbin was just 1-4 in eight previous starts at Citi Field, but he was more than comfortable in the quiet stadium Monday night, benefiting from the Nats offense waking up to the tune of four homers and a seven-run, eight-hit explosion in the fifth inning.
"It's awesome," said manager Davey Martinez on a Zoom postgame call. "He keeps the hitters off-balance. He knows where to throw it. He knows how to throw for a strike. He will bury it with two strikes. The most impressive thing is that he keeps the ball down unless he wants to elevate a fastball and that is huge. Everything was down today. He looked great. He had one inning there where he threw a bunch of pitches (and) we took him out of the game, but he threw the ball really well."
Corbin was active on defense as well.
In the bottom of the fifth, Corbin walked Ramos but then started a 1-6-3 double play on a comebacker to the mound by Brandon Nimmo.
Corbin also made an outstanding play in the third when a hot shot off the bat of Amed Rosario that knocked the left-hander on his backside to the left of the mound. Corbin calmly gathered himself, got to one knee and threw out the runner at first base for the second out of the inning.
"It's just an awkward play when you as a lefty fall off towards third base," Corbin said. "I knew it was coming back to me. I was going to fall reaching back towards first. Just really awkward looking play, but you just try to make the play, put a glove on it and that's kind of what that was."
His throwing error in the sixth allowed the Mets' first run to score, but that was really his only mistake on defense all night.
Corbin finished six innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He threw 87 pitches, 54 for strikes.
His slider was amazing as usual, but his fastball velocity ranged from 88-90 mph, which is below is usual 91 -93 mph. But Corbin (2-0) has a good explanation for that, and it is all about where the Nationals are in the season.
"Obviously, it's not where I was towards the end of last season when your arm is built up," Corbin said. "We are still building up and I think when you can come out and you are feeling good, I think that is going to come eventually. That's why I think location right now is (playing) such an important role, being able to do that.
"When I can look up and see my slider's around the speed that it normally is, I know everything is fine. I just think the more and more we get out there, the more innings I get under my belt, get in a routine, things will get back to normal. I think that (goes) for a lot of guys here. We had such a long layoff and everybody was doing different things, so it's going to be different for everybody."
Regardless of the velocity on his fastball, his mix of his slider with the changeup, sinker and curveball baffles opposing hitters. Juan Soto, who hit a 463-foot home run, is glad he doesn't have to face Corbin in the batter's box.
"He is amazing," Soto said. "Even if he don't have his speed, he is still competitive throwing the slider. I faced him in spring training and I think it is one of the toughest sliders I ever see. He is so nasty. I'm really excited that he's on my side and happy to have him here and how he grind every day and how he have fun. You see him really quiet, but he really likes to have fun."