It was not a pitch-efficient type game for Patrick Corbin Friday night against Milwaukee, but that did not seem to bother him one bit.
Neither did getting behind in counts or watching Brewers hitters take so many pitches.
In the end, the Nationals southpaw went to his best pitch to get him out of jams again and again. The slider is his signature pitch, and it helped Corbin rack up four inning-ending strikeouts when he needed them most.
With Corbin and the bullpen on point and Anthony Rendon providing clutch hitting, the Nats held off the Brewers 2-1 for their fifth win in a row.
In three of those innings, the Brewers had men in scoring position: bases loaded in the top of the third, two men on in the fifth and another two men on in the sixth.
“Scouting report was throw breaking balls down in the zone, and he can be really effective when guys start swinging at him, as we know,” said Nationals manager Davey Martinez. “He kept us in the ballgame, pitched well, got out of some jams. Pitch count got up there in the sixth inning, but he gave us what we need.”
Corbin had to throw 110 pitches, 61 went for strikes. He gave up seven hits, but only one run, a solo homer to Orlando Arcia that led off the third.
The Brewers continued to pressure Corbin in that inning. The opposing pitcher, Adrian Houser, doubled for his first hit in the major leagues. Lorenzo Cain singled and later stole second. Ryan Braun walked to load the bases with two outs. But Corbin struck out Yasmani Grandal with a slider to end the threat.
“You don’t want every inning to go like that, but I felt so good tonight and yeah, had to work myself out of it tonight,” Corbin said. “It seemed like I made pitches when I had to, but felt good enough. Got my pitch count up, but they battled. You don’t want to make mistakes against these guys. Maybe I was pitching a little too fine, but overall felt good, got out of jams.”
Facing 3-0 and 3-1 counts and walking batters would rattle many pitchers. But Martinez noted Corbin’s ability to follow his catcher, Yan Gomes, sprinkle in some fastballs and then give them a heavy dose of his slider to get out of the inning.
“He’s very poised, really,” Martinez said. “Nothing really rattles him out there. He knows when to step off, he knows when to take deep breaths. He knows when to slow down. (H)e’s a gamer. We talk about the (Max) Scherzers and the (Stephen) Strasburgs, but he’s just as competitive as any of them. When guys get on base, that’s when he becomes nails. He really does.”
Corbin indeed felt good about the fastball tonight. But his pitch count got heavy as the game wore on, so in the end he kept going back to his slider for the big outs.
“I felt I had one of my better fastballs today. At least it was coming out good, I thought, the whole night,” Corbin noted. “Slider was great. I was able to use it in big spots. Just against these guys when they do get some guys in scoring position, you don’t want to make a mistake there. Threw some tough sliders, and maybe threw more balls than I’d like to but sometimes against these guys it works out that way.”
Critical in any game against the Brewers is figuring out a way to solve the dangerous Christian Yelich. Corbin managed induce a fielder’s choice, a strikeout and a grounder to shortstop in his meetings with Yelich.
“He’s one of the best hitters in the game,” Corbin said. “Definitely don’t want to make a mistake to him. I just tried to throw my best pitch, which is my slider.”
Yelich crowded the plate, making it hard for Corbin to get separation with the slider. But he managed to.
“I think to him you’re just trying to throw your best one, your hard one,” Corbin said. “You definitely don’t want to throw a slow one in there. (Mike) Moustakas too, they both hit those pitches well.
“I knew just try to throw my best ones every time and mix in heaters there. I think he was 0-for-5 tonight. That’s pretty impressive by the bullpen to come in get him out a couple more times, and hopefully we do it tomorrow too.”