By Mark Carlisle
Patrick Corbin dominated again Sunday as the Diamondbacks beat the San Diego Padres 4-2 at Chase Field in Phoenix to win their seventh straight series to start the year.
The lefty struck out 11 in six innings, giving him 48 on the year to lead baseball. The only runs Corbin conceded came on Christian Villanueva’s two-run home run in the sixth, one of two hits he allowed.
“He’s locked in and he’s getting good results. …He’s worked extremely hard for this moment,” said D-backs manage Torey Lovullo about his starter, who’s worked back to his old, All-Star form after Tommy John surgery in 2014.
Corbin’s struck out 10 of the 11 with his slider, which has been near untouchable this year.
“Threw some good fastballs, got ahead of guys, and finished them with my slider, and threw them the slower (breaking ball) as well,” Corbin said. “Overall, felt really good. Just felt like I was making pitches. Obviously, the only one was the homer there, just kind of up a little bit and he put a good swing on it to a good hitter, who’s hot right now.”
Corbin, who entered the game with a 1.65 ERA, faced Padres rookie starter Joey Lucchesi, who entered with a 1.65 ERA. It was shaping up to be a pitcher’s duel early, but the D-backs jumped on Lucchesi for four runs in the fourth, handing him his worst start, and first loss, of the year. Lucchesi’s four earned runs over five innings rose his ERA almost a full point to 2.70.
With the win, Corbin joined Boston’s Rick Porcello as the only pitchers in baseball with a 4-0 record. His ERA ticked up to 1.89.
Corbin’s stellar start Sunday somehow looked almost pedestrian compared to his last one, a complete game shutout against the Giants at Chase Field earlier in the week, where a check-swing infield hit was the only thing separating him from a no-hitter.
The D-backs broke Sunday’s scoreless tie in the fourth when Lucchesi made an errant pickoff throw to first with runners on the corners. Paul Goldschmidt scored from third. A.J. Pollock, who broke for second on the pickoff attempt, was credited with a steal and took third on the error.
Nick Ahmed then hooked a two-run homer down the left-field line to extend the lead to 3-0. The shortstop said he wasn’t looking for the long ball.
“A.J. was on third. I was trying to, honestly, drive him in, trying to get a fastball out over the plate and hit something to right-center, and the changeup kind of just hung in the middle part of the plate, and I was able to get it up in the air,” he said.
Later in the inning, Corbin helped out his own cause with a single up the middle to drive in Marrero from third, who had reached on a walk.
It’s the second day in a row that a D-backs pitcher drove in a run. Zack Godley had an RBI single in the second inning of Saturday’s win.
The D-backs are the first team to open a season with seven series wins since the 2003 San Francisco Giants. The D-backs previous team best was winning two straight series to start a season.
In the midst of the streak, Lovullo said the team is still looking forward.
“We’re proud of that, but we’ve got a long way to go… There’s no end zone for us,” he said.
Despite a loss to open the series Friday, the D-backs came back to take the latter two games and the series.
Ahmed talked about the team’s no-quit attitude after the game Sunday and credited the pitching staff, which leads the National League with a 2.75 ERA.
“You see it in the games we’re losing. We’re never giving up, we’re coming back in the ninth and tying it up and things like that,” he said. “So, we just want to be in every game and the pitchers have given us that chance. Hopefully, the offense gets enough runs to keep winning series.”
After striking out five straight batters from the fifth into the sixth, Corbin looked untouchable. However, the fifth strikeout came when Wil Myers whiffed at a wild pitch and reached first on the dropped third strike.
Then the Padres’ red-hot rookie Villanueva got to Corbin, hitting an opposite field, two-run homer to put San Diego on the board. Villanueva’s seven home runs are tied for second in the NL and fourth-most in baseball. He also doubled in the ninth, owning two of San Diego’s three hits.
Despite the double, Archie Bradley closed the door with a four-out save, his second save of the year. Regular closer Brad Boxberger was resting Sunday after pitching three days straight Wednesday-Friday, where he got touched up for five earned runs in two-plus innings after not allowing a run in his first seven outings.
After Ahmed’s homer Sunday, his third, he is on pace to finish the season with 23. His career high is nine.
Despite the power surge, the defensive specialist hasn’t forgotten his roots. He made an outstanding, backhanded diving stop and rose to complete a long throw across the infield to rob Myers of a hit in the ninth.
Having allowed only two hits and one walk over six innings Sunday, Corbin lowered his WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) to 0.66, trailing only San Francisco’s Johnny Cueto, 0.65, for the NL lead.
After the game Lovullo announced that third baseman Jake Lamb, who has been recovering from a shoulder injury, has tendonitis in his right elbow. Lamb will rest for a few days before being reevaluated Wednesday. Before the setback, the D-backs had hoped Lamb might be able to join the team for their upcoming road trip, which starts Tuesday in Philadelphia.
The D-backs’ hot start has come while missing two big bats in the lineup — Lamb, who has been out since April 2, and outfielder Steven Souza, who has yet to back his D-back debut after straining his right pectoral muscle in spring training. The D-backs acquired Souza from Tampa Bay in the offseason.
The D-backs will travel to Philadelphia start a three-game series against the Phillies Tuesday after an off day Monday. Robbie Ray (2-0) will face Jake Arrieta (2-0). The road trip will conclude in Washington D.C. with three games against the Nationals Friday-Sunday. The Padres will play the Rockies in Denver Monday.