Before he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Tyler Skaggs' manager with the Cedar Rapids Kernels -- then, a Class-A affiliate of the Angels -- compared him to Phillies' ace Cole Hamels. On Thursday, it was a different up-and-coming lefty, Patrick Corbin -- a little more than a footnote at the time of the aforementioned Skaggs' trade back at the 2010 trade deadline -- who bested Hamels, becoming the first Diamondbacks pitcher to ever have seven straight, six-plus inning starts of two runs or less allowed.
Corbin beat out Skaggs for the fifth spot in the Diamondbacks' rotation during Spring Training, going 3-0 with a 2.81 ERA in five starts. The left-hander still hasn't lost in 2013, improving to 5-0 in his team's 2-1 win versus the Phillies on Thursday.
Seven starts and one spring into the year, Corbin has now beaten three talented lefties -- not just Hamels and Skaggs, but also Dodgers' phenom Clayton Kershaw, in a three-hit, six-inning shutout win on April 12.
"We're not surprised," Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said after the game, when talking about Corbin's first seven starts. "We have total confidence in him."
By the end of play on Thursday, Corbin was fifth among NL pitchers in ERA, with a 1.75 mark. The 23-year-old hasn't exited a single one of his seven starts this season without the lead and his team has gone on to win every one of them.
Last season, Corbin was called up in late April, slated to take the struggling Josh Collmenter's place in the rotation. But, despite an exceptional 2012 spring, the call-up was questioned by many who were in favor of seeing one of the Diamondbacks' more touted pitching prospects, like Skaggs or Trevor Bauer.
Now, with Skaggs struggling in Triple-A Reno and Bauer a member of the Indians' organization, there isn't a pitcher in the Diamondbacks' system who can overshadow Corbin. Indeed, Corbin's nine earned runs account for less than 10% of the 92 earned runs the Diamondbacks starting rotation has allowed thus far this season. Without contributions from their No. 5 starter, the Diamondbacks rotation has recorded a 4.36 ERA, which is 2.61 more runs per nine innings pitched.
"I didn't know the start (of the season) would be like this," Corbin said after Thursday's win. "But I'm not surprised at all."
With Chase Utley standing on second base and the game tied at 0-0, Corbin intentionally walked righty Michael Young to get to Phillies' first baseman Ryan Howard, who he ended striking out with a high fastball.
"That was big," the pitcher said of the strikeout.
Of course it was. What about his season hasn't been big?