Corbin plays role of stopper as Nats drop Mets 5-1

Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin did it again.

This time, it was an eight-inning gem for a 5-1 win over the Mets at Nationals Park in which he allowed only one run on four hits. He walked just one batter and recorded a season-high-tying 11 strikeouts.

Corbin-Throws-White-sidebar.jpgCorbin (4-1) set the tone in the first inning with three straight swinging strikes on a ridiculous 83 mph slider that batters cannot reach down to get.

“Once he gets through that first inning, he tends to just cruise,” said Nationals manager Davey Martinez. “Once he gets through that first time around the batting order, he just kind of rolls. Him and (catcher Yan) Gomes have a place to attack the hitters, and it was really good today.”

Martinez spent 16 seasons in the big leagues, and he shudders to think what it would be like to try to reach down and find that slider after being set up with so many four-seam and two-seam fastballs.

“I sit around often, and on the computer I can just kind of visualize standing up there as a hitter, and the break is so late,” Martinez said. That’s what makes it so effective. Looks like a fastball coming in. It just drops.”

Corbin knows the slider brings him to the party. It doesn’t allow the opponent to get anything going. The Mets enjoyed an RBI double from J.D. Davis in the second inning, but it was the only inning in which New York ever had runners in scoring position against the southpaw.

“That’s been my pitch for a while now,” Corbin said of his slider. “I feel real confident with it pretty much in any game. Today just the fastball command, we were able to get ahead of guys and change eye level and things like that to keep them off balance. When you get ahead, sometimes they got to swing at that pitch.”

Last Thursday in Dodger Stadium, Corbin twirled seven innings on 107 pitches, allowing no runs on three hits while walking four and striking out eight.

This time he got through eight innings having to toss only 108 pitches. He struck out two more batters to begin the eighth frame.

“(He was) awesome,” Martinez said. “Really good. For the most part, kept the ball down, used both sides of the plate. When he can attack with his fastball, it makes his slider that much better.”

Similar to last Thursday in Los Angeles, Corbin got three runs from the offense in the first inning and promptly struck out four of the first six batters he faced.

“We had a great game plan coming in,” Corbin said. “Yan did a good job behind the plate. Mixed some fastballs inside and outside and threw some strikes with the breaking ball, mixing in a couple of changeups, some slower breaking balls. Just want to stay out of the middle of the plate. That was something we were able to do tonight.”

Corbin collected 11 strikeouts against the Phillies April 12. He matched that total Wednesday night as he struck out the side in the first and went on to get two or more strikeouts each in the fourth, sixth and eighth innings.

“You are getting ahead of guys, a lot of them are starting 0-1, trying to throw quality strikes there,” Corbin said. “When I’m able to do that, you get them in swing mode. Makes it a little more difficult on them. I’m always trying to go out there and pitch deep into ball games, so you try to get ahead. So whether there is an out or a strikeout, you’ll take either one.”

Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg have each taken on the role of stopper for this club in years past. But with the team stumbling to a 5-14 mark since April 19, the Nats desperately needed Corbin to be that pitcher against the Mets in the second game of the series, and he delivered. In three of the four wins for Corbin this season with his new team, the Nats had lost the previous night. He played stopper again Wednesday.

“You always want to be that guy to take the ball and go out there and compete, just try to put up as many zeros as a I can, keep us in the game,” Corbin said. “They did a great job, putting up five runs today.

“We are going to win a lot of games with the pitchers we do have here. If they can continue to do that: have some offense. I just thought today throughout the whole game just quality at-bats, made it tough on their guys and got their starter out there in the third. That was great to see and, hopefully, (we) continue to build off of that.”

Veteran Howie Kendrick has hit well against Corbin, 7-for-22 (.318) with one homer and six RBIs. But he also knows how good the left-hander is when his slider is on.

“I think we have confidence with all our guys out there, but he’s been doing some really good stuff lately,” Kendrick said. “Eleven K’s tonight, not only was he punching guys out, but he was getting outs when he needed them, and he never really got in a jam tonight. For us it was big, especially, to be able to give him some runs early. I think that’s huge for us to be able to put runs on the board early and give our pitcher some room to work with.”

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