The rare feat and hot start of the Diamondbacks' Patrick Corbin

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Patrick Corbin is 7-0 for the Diamondbacks after shutting down the Rockies in Denver. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Patrick Corbin, Diamondbacks

Coors Field is typically a nightmare for pitchers, but that didn't seem to bother Patrick Corbin, who on Monday night turned in one of the best pitching performances ever in the hitter's haven.

Corbin became just the 11th pitcher to throw a nine-inning complete game while allowing three or fewer hits at Coors, which opened in 1995. It was also just the third time any opposing pitcher threw a complete game at Coors Field using fewer than 100 pitches; the other two times were by the Rockies' Aaron Cook, on July 25, 2007 and July 1, 2008, both against the Padres. While Cook was a pitch-to-contact type — striking out a total of six hitters in those two outings, which needed just 74 and 79 pitches, respectively — Corbin missed plenty of bats, yet he pitched with remarkable economy. Only five other pitchers have tossed nine-inning complete games at Coors while reaching double digits in strikeouts, and all of them needed at least 120 pitches:

TABLE 1: Pitchers to throw complete games with three or fewer hits allowed at Coors: (From the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index)

Player 

Date 

Tm 

Opp 

Rslt 

IP 

ER 

BB 

SO 

Pit

Pat Rapp

9/17/95

FLA

COL

W 17-0

9

1

0

0

1

7

114

Hideo Nomo

9/17/96

LAD

COL

W 9-0

9

0

0

0

4

8

110

Darryl Kile

9/10/98

COL

FLA

W 3-1

9

2

1

1

2

5

110

Pedro Astacio

6/3/01

COL

SFG

W 11-2

9

3

2

2

2

7

107

Sun-Woo Kim

9/24/05

COL

SFG

W 6-0

9

3

0

0

1

3

101

Jeff Francis

7/24/06

COL

STL

W 7-0

9

2

0

0

0

8

129

Roy Oswalt

9/6/08

HOU

COL

W 2-0

9

1

0

0

2

6

102

Matt Cain

9/26/10

SFG

COL

W 4-2

9

3

2

2

1

8

113

Kevin Millwood

5/18/12

SEA

COL

W 4-0

9

2

0

0

1

7

113

Patrick Corbin

5/20/13

ARI

COL

W 5-1

9

3

1

1

1

10

97

TABLE 2: Pitchers with 9 IP, CG and at least 10 Ks at Coors:

Player 

Date 

Tm 

Opp 

Rslt 

IP 

ER 

BB 

SO 

Pit

Brian Bohanon

8/28/99

COL

PHI

W 4-0

9

4

0

0

4

10

137

Pedro Martinez

7/29/97

MON

COL

W 3-0

9

5

0

0

1

13

128

Kevin Brown

7/15/98

SDP

COL

W 6-2

9

12

2

2

1

10

126

John Thomson

6/4/98

COL

ARI

W 5-2

9

4

2

2

1

11

125

Pedro Astacio

7/6/99

COL

LAD

W 5-2

9

6

2

2

0

10

120

Patrick Corbin

5/20/13

ARI

COL

W 5-1

9

3

1

1

1

10

97

Incidentally, the single-game Coors Field record for strikeouts is 14, by Randy Johnson for the Diamondbacks on April 13, 2001, but the Big Unit ran out of bullets after seven innings and 127 pitches.

As for Corbin, he's been pitching well at every venue this season.The 23-year-old lefty has thrown at least six innings and allowed two or fewer runs in all nine of his starts, each of which Arizona has won. He leads the league with seven wins and is second in ERA, with a 1.44 mark to Clayton Kershaw's 1.35. With this latest performance, it's a good bet he'll be moving up in Cliff Corcoran's next Awards Watch.

Corbin hasn't received the hype that Matt Harvey has, but like his 24-year-old Mets counterpart, he's in his first full major league season. A second-round 2009 pick by the Angels out of Chipola (Florida) Junior College, he was one of four pitchers acquired by the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren deal on July 25, 2010; Joe Saunders, Rafael Rodriguez and Tyler Skaggs were the others. Less heralded but more advanced than fellow southpaw Skaggs, Corbin never placed on any of the major top prospect lists, and was lost among a veritable flood of Diamondbacks pitching prospects. At the outset of last year, Baseball America ranked Trevor Bauer as the team's number one prospect, with Archie Bradley second, Skaggs third, David Holmberg sixth, Wade Miley eighth and Corbin ninth.

Corbin debuted last April 30, and served two major league stints before coming up to stay on Aug. 1. His 6-8 record and 4.54 ERA weren't especially impressive; he was undone largely by a high home run rate (1.2 per nine) and batting average on balls in play (.319), though he did post a strong 3.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He's at 2.8 in the latter category this year (7.4 strikeouts and 2.6 walks per nine), but the bigger breakthroughs have been in terms of defensive support (.246 BABIP) and home run prevention. He's yielded just two longballs in 62 1/3 innings; among NL ERA qualifiers, only Adam Wainwright (0.28 per nine to Corbin's 0.29) has been stingier.

According to the PITCHf/x data at BrooksBaseball.net, Corbin has cut down the homers thanks in part to a slightly faster and more effective sinker, his most frequent pitch — not to mention some help from his defense:

Year

Vel (MPH)

GB/BIP

HR/(FB+LD)

BABIP

AVG

SLG

2011

91.6

49.7%

8.1%

.322

.313

.518

2012

92.4

60.2%

2.9%

.228

.234

.330

Corbin's BABIP on that pitch is likely to regress; he's in the .280-.300 range for his other three offerings (four-seam fastball, slider and changeup). His slider has become a real knockout pitch; he has boosted his whiff rate on the offering from 24 to 28 percent, and batters this year are hitting .097 with a .161 slugging percentage against it (.294 BABIP), compared to .156 with a .300 slugging percentage (.355 BABIP) last year. Not to be overlooked: He's getting first-pitch strikes on an MLB-high 71.4 percent of his pitches according to FanGraphs.