Today’s game was a complete-game shutout by Patrick Corbin who had the Nats best defense of the year behind him with 3 doubleplays turned and a well-called game in front of him. It was Corbin’s catcher Yan Gomes who had a new wrinkle in today’s start with a fastball-heavy diet of pitches. The All-Star pitcher threw 116 pitches of which 70 were strikes including 67-fastballs, and today the slider set-up the fastball away for much of the day. The lefty only threw 31% sliders today and that was his lowest of the season. Corbin lowered his ERA to 2.85 after this dominant game.
“It was one of those games where he usually relies a lot on his slider,” Gomes said. “It was almost like we weren’t able to get to it.”
Five days ago, Corbin threw 45% sliders of his 98 pitches in that outing, and the Mets took the slider as if they knew it was coming — and they probably did based on scouting that in a 2-strike count you knew the slider was coming. Today, Gomes called for mostly fastballs in 2-strike counts, and it worked as 3 of the 5 strikeouts were on fastballs. Today, it was the fastball that got 18-outs of the requisite 27 you need for a complete game. Whether the change in strategy should be credited to new pitching coach Paul Menhart‘s strategy or from the analytics department or Gomes or Corbin — it worked as you still have to know it’s an issue and execute. Being too predictable is not a good thing in baseball where everything is open to scouting and analysis and adjusting to what other teams do is a key.
“The fans were great in the ninth to cheer me on through it,” Corbin said. “Yan did a great job, and the defense behind me was amazing. I don’t know if I made the best pitches today. The defense behind me played a hell of a game.”
The entire bullpen got the day-off today courtesy of Corbin, and the offense put up 5-runs including 3 of those runs knocked in by Gomes. It was great to see Juan Soto extend his hitting streak to 9-games while batting .500 during that streak. The offense and defense supported their pitcher like no other game this season.
The game included one scary moment when Victor Robles squared to bunt and a ball appeared to have hit him in the face. Fortunately, the ball grazed his chin. It looked serious as homeplate ump Tim Timmons was animated waving on the trainer while holding Robles down. Miraculously, Robles was fine and got on-base and scored on the Gomes double all the way from first base. This was a well-played game, and the only botched play in the game was a faux pas on running the bases by Adam Eaton as he tried to go first-to-third on a bloop single, and he was tagged out in a rundown.
But this game was mostly about Corbin and the way he relied on his defense behind him to keep his outing efficient and turning 3 doubleplays will help that pitch count. Usually approaching a 120-pitch count is taboo, Corbin did not have any stressful innings. But it seemed unnecessary with a 5-run lead to push Corbin.
“Because he wanted the ball. I told him he had 115 pitches. He wasn’t laboring or any high leverage innings,” manager Dave Martinez said supporting the move to send Corbin out for the 9th inning with a high pitch count.
The game saw some amazing plays like a Juan Soto hook slide at home, and a sliding catch by Adam Eaton in the outfield to save at least one run. As much as this team has made mistakes, this game was flawless sans the Eaton mistake running the bases.
With these back-to-back wins, the Nationals go for three-in-a-row tomorrow against one of the best pitchers in baseball with Caleb Smith for the Marlins. The Nationals are the only team in the Majors without a 3-game winning streak. They can change that tomorrow.