Patrick Corbin’s journey that started in Central New York, continued while a standout at Cicero-North Syracuse High School and ultimately brought him fame and fortune in Major League Baseball now has taken him to the sports’ biggest showcase – and he had a central role in making it possible.
The 30-year-old Corbin was the winning pitcher in the fourth game of the National League Championship Series last Tuesday night as the Washington Nationals completed a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park 7-4 and reached the franchise’s first-ever World Series.
Not only are the Nationals in the Fall Classic for the first time, it’s also the first appearance for any Washington, D.C. franchise since the American League’s Senators (later the Minnesota Twins) lost in five games to the New York Giants in 1933.
Prior to this season, Corbin had already established himself as one of the best left-handed pitchers in the majors, twice making All-Star appearances with the Arizona Diamondbacks, including a 2018 campaign where he struck out 246 batters.
Then, last December, Corbin signed a six-year, $140 million contract with the Nationals, adding himself to a pitching staff that already included the likes of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. But then Washington started the 2019 season 19-31, and there was talk of the franchise trading away star players and firing manager Dave Martinez.
Starting in June, the Nationals turned it around, with Corbin himself making 33 starts, going 14-7 overall with a 3.25 earned average and 238 strikeouts in 202 innings. Washington surged all the way to second place in the NL East behind the Atlanta Braves and earned a wild-card playoff berth.
After the Nationals made a late comeback to beat Milwaukee in the Wild Card Game, Corbin started Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the two-time defending league champion Los Angeles Dodgers, but struggled in that game as the Nationals lost.
Corbin also made a relief appearance in the sixth inning of Game 3, where the Dodgers got to him again in a Washington defeat. Once more, though, the Nationals rallied, winning Game 4, and in the decisive fifth game at Dodger Stadium Corbin threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Remakably, the Nationals, down 3-1 going into the eighth inning of Game 5, hit back-to-back home runs off Dodgers great Clayton Kershaw and then used Howie Kendrick’s 10th-inning grand slam to win it 7-3 and advance to the NLCS against the Cardinals.
There, Washington’s tremendous pitching dominated the series. Scherzer (in Game 2) and Anibal Sanchez (in Game 1) both carried no-hitters into the seventh inning on their way to victories. Back in D.C., Strasburg struck out 11 in seven innings to help the Nationals win again.
Now Corbin, in the most important start of his life, had a chance to clinch the pennant, and he promptly struck out the side in the top of the first inning and watched as Washington erupted for seven runs in the bottom of the first.
Staked to that big early margin, Corbin continued to amass strikeouts – 10 in the first four innings, a Major League post-season record – but tired as he gave up four total runs in the fourth and fifth innings, even as his strikeout total reached 12.
Three Washington relievers then shut out the Cardinals the rest of the way, including a tense eighth inning where St. Louis loaded the bases before closer Daniel Hudson induced a groundout, then retired the Cardinals in order in the ninth inning to end it.
The World Series starts Tuesday night with the Nationals facing the American League champion Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. And Corbin is scheduled to start Game 3 at Nationals Park – the first time in 86 years a game in the Fall Classic takes place in the nation’s capital.