Patrick Corbin's teammates in Mobile have been ribbing him often over the past two weeks. It's no surprise that the beginning of his scoreless streak, they contend, coincided with the arrival of his girlfriend.
Corbin thinks his success is better explained by his new knuckle-curveball, and he'll soon find out if that's the case: His better half leaves town Tuesday, but his best new pitch will be sticking around.
The D-backs prospect extended his string of zeros to 19 2/3 by twirling seven more shutout innings Saturday in the BayBears' 5-0 victory over the Huntsville Stars.
A 2009 second-round Draft pick acquired from the Angels in last July's Dan Haren trade, Corbin (5-2) allowed five hits and struck out eight. He retired the final eight batters he faced and threw 104 pitches.
The 21-year-old left-hander's scoreless streak was in serious doubt with one out in the second. Corbin allowed three straight Stars to reach -- on a double, a five-pitch walk and an infield single -- and stepped off the mound to gather himself.
"In my mind, I was just like, 'Get ahead of the hitters that are up and don't give them anything to hit,'" he recalled. "That's what I did to the next two guys and I got out of the inning."
Corbin struck out Hainley Statia and pitcher Wily Peralta to escape unscathed.
Ever since enduring the worst start of his brief career -- he surrendered nine runs on 13 hits in five innings on May 19 in Tennessee -- Corbin hasn't had too many close calls.
"The outing before, I threw well and I thought I was going to start to get into a [rhythm]," he said. "Then that outing came up and that was probably my worst outing of pro ball. You start questioning yourself a little bit."
Corbin also felt the itch to throw a new pitch. Enter the knuckle-curve, which he has been spotting seven to 10 times a game over his last three starts. He said the pitch has a 12-to-6 break, varying significantly from his faster and flatter slider.
"I've been pretty successful with it and I think I'll stick with it," he said. "It's just a change of speed, which gets hitters off-balance."
That, in itself, has been a challenge for the New York native. Southern League hitters are smarter than those he faced earlier in his career, he said.
In addition to the newest offering in his repertoire, Corbin said he has enjoyed many of the little things all pitchers like to have full use of: fastball command, control down in the zone and a feel for his breaking pitches.
"It's good to have those games where you have everything working, and that's how it has been lately," he said.
That, plus the presence of his girlfriend has produced a special streak.
"You can't really let it get to you," he said. "I just feel like I am bearing down, going pitch by pitch."
Clay Zavada and Ryan Cook, who earned his fourth save, finished off Corbin's gem and Mobile's sixth shutout.
Former first-round pick A.J. Pollock (2-for-4) and Ryan Wheeler (3-for-4) struck solo shots to power the BayBears' attack.