Tanner Roark And Nationals In St. Louis To Face Cardinals

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Davey Johnson and the Washington Nationals are in St. Louis tonight where they're seeking revenge against the St. Louis Cardinals who ended their 2012 season and swept their only series so far this year. Can Tanner Roark and the Nats beat the Cards?

The last time the Washington Nationals faced Adam Wainwright before tonight, the St. Louis Cardinals' right-hander held Nats' hitters to five hits in 8 1/3 scoreless in Nationals Park in the second game of a three-game set in April which the visiting Cards swept. Nats' skipper Davey Johnson expressed frustration with his offense after the early season loss which left the defending NL East champs, who'd been eliminated from the postseason by the Cardinals the previous October, 10-10 twenty games into the defense of their division crown.

"I'm usually pretty patient, but I'm getting to my rope's end. The effort is there, but we're just not getting it done." - Davey Johnson after Nats lost to Adam Wainwright in April

"I'm usually pretty patient," Johnson told reporters in the nation's capital that day. "But I'm getting to my rope's end. The effort is there, but we're just not getting it done. We've got the players who can get it done, but we're just not getting it done. It's time to get a little mad. I mean, you've got to tip your hat to Wainwright. He pitched a heck of a ballgame, but we're not centering it up and we're not giving as good of at bats as we're capable of, and it's been about a week we've been kind of real quiet offensively."

"The effort is always there," the manager continued, "But we're just not hitting the ball like we're capable of." Though he didn't go into detail, Johnson promised that he'd make some changes to shake things up. "The way I read this ballclub, it's more everybody's trying to do something, trying to do maybe a little too much instead of just doing what's there," he explained. "Hitting the ball hard somewhere. Get on base. Getting some momentum going. But it's frustrating."

"But we've just got to pick it up a notch," Johnson concluded, "kind of get mad."

Wainwright's outing in Washington left the 32-year-old Cardinals' starter (5-3) with a 3.09 ERA, 3 HRs (0.46 HR/9) and 17 walks (2.62 BB/9) allowed, 59 Ks (9.10 K/9) and a 1.30 WHIP in 11 games, nine starts and 58 1/3 IP against the Nationals in his eight-year career. The year 2000 1st Round pick makes the tenth start of his career against the Nats in Busch Stadium tonight where he'll face 26-year-old rookie sensation Tanner Roark.

"Ever since he's been here, whether it's out of the pen or starting, it's been quality. I can't say enough about location." - Davey Johnson on Tanner Roark

In Roark's first career start against the Cards, the one-time Texas Rangers' prospect acquired in a deal for Cristian Guzman in 2010, will be looking to improve to (8-0) after winning seven games in his first 12 major league outings, the last three of which have been starts. Seven scoreless innings against Atlanta last time out left Roark with a 1.08 ERA, a 2.16 FIP, nine walks (1.94 BB/9) and 32 Ks (6.91 K/9) in 41 2/3 IP in which he's yet to allow a home run.

Davey Johnson told reporters after Roark beat the Braves that the right-hander had shown he has what it takes to pitch at the major league level. "Spin [Williams] gave me good reports on him," Johnson explained when asked if he was surprised by Roark's success, "said he was a big league pitcher and I put a lot in to what he says. But ever since he's been here, whether it's out of the pen or starting, it's been quality. I can't say enough about location. Everybody's all wrapped up in the velocity, but he pitches 92-93-94 [mph], but he's got a good curve ball. Good slider. And the location is outstanding."

Johnson went on to say that he thought Roark would compete and might have an upper hand in the battle for a spot in the Nationals' rotation next Spring. Tonight's start will likely be Roark's last of 2013. As the Nats' skipper explained it to reporters in Busch Stadium in St. Louis, after Roark, it's going to Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann in the second and third games with the Cardinals and then Stephen Strasburg, Dan Haren and Gonzalez again against the D-Backs later this week in Arizona.

Can Roark end a sort-of-out-of-nowhere season with a win in St. Louis? Or will the Cardinals make it five straight over the Nationals tonight?

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