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Mets 3-1 Over Nationals: Tanner Roark Strong Again, Making Case For 5th Spot

Tanner Roark put together another impressive start this afternoon in the Washington Nationals' 3-1 loss to the New York Mets. Did he do enough to earn himself the fifth spot in the Nats' 2014 rotation? Or will the 27-year-old right-hander end up in the 'pen?

Today's Top 5:

5. Reversed Call: Bryce Harper singled to start this afternoon's game, taking a fastball from New York Mets' right-hander Jenrry Mejia to center field for a one-out hit in front of Washington Nationals' slugger Jayson Werth. Harper tried to steal second on Mejia and Mets' catcher Anthony Recker, but was called out on the play by second base umpire James Hoye. It was a close play, however, so Nats' skipper Matt Williams challenged the call and got it reversed so the Nationals' aggressive 21-year-old outfielder didn't run himself out of an early opportunity. Werth flew out to center in the next at bat. Harper took third on a ball in the dirt, and then scored on a two-out infield single by Ryan Zimmerman. 1-0 Nationals after a 1/2 an inning.

4. Tanner Row-ark's Latest: Tanner Roark fourth start of the spring began with a 12-pitch, two groundout, 1-2-3 bottom of the first inning against the Mets this afternoon in Port St. Lucie, Florida's Tradition Field. Only Mets' second baseman Daniel Murphy left the infield in the first, but he popped out to short left for the second of the three quick outs.

With a fastball that cut back inside for a called strike and a backdoor curve that fell in the zone, Roark got up 0-2 on Curtis Granderson in the first at bat of NY's second. After he missed with two fastballs, a 12-to-6, 2-2 curve got the Mets' new outfielder swinging wildly for out no.1. Bryce Harper tracked a long fly ball to the wall in left off Chris Young's bat in the next AB, but missed on a leaping attempt at a catch. Harper recovered quickly, though, and threw a strike to the third base bag from the left field corner to catch the Mets' center fielder trying to stretch a double into a triple. Roark's 26th pitch of the game was a 3-2 curve to Ike Davis, on which the big slugger K'd swinging for out no.3.

Roark threw nine pitches and got three ground ball outs from the seven, eight and nine hitters in the Mets' lineup in a quick bottom of the third inning, after which the right-hander was up to 35 pitches overall with a 1-0 lead.

David Wright's fly to left field on a hanging curve died in the wind and fell into Bryce Harper's glove for the third out of a six-pitch fourth inning that left Roark at 41 pitches overall after four scoreless in which he'd faced the minimum and given up just one hit.

3. Leadoff Walks Rarely Come Back To Haunt You: Roark issued a leadoff walk to Curtis Granderson in the home-half of the fifth, giving up just his third free pass of the spring. An 0-2 curve got a check-swing strike three from Chris Young, who took a frustrated walk back to the third base dugout. Lucas Duda flew to left, but into the wind again, so the ball fell to Harper on the edge of the track for out no.2. Aaron Brown fell behind 0-2 when he missed a high front door curve from Roark. Granderson took second when Roark bounced a breaking ball off Jose Lobaton, and Granderson scored on an RBI single when Brown lined a hanging 1-2 curve to left to tie the game up at 1-1. Another wild pitch on another 0-2 curve in the dirt bounced off Lobaton's mask, allowing Brown to take second, but a third breaking ball got Mets' catcher Anthony Recker swinging to end a 23-pitch inning that took Roark up to 64 pitches overall...

Pinch hitter Matt Reynolds was strikeout victim no.5 as Roark got another right-handed Met with a curve low in the zone outside. Ruben Tejada sent a 2-2 fastball out to third where Ryan Zimmerman made the play on what ended up being the Nats' starter's final pitch of the game. Matt Williams brought Xavier Cedeno out of the pen to face Mets' left-handed hitter Daniel Murphy, ending Roark's outing eight pitches into the sixth, at 72 pitches total on the day. Cedeno got a weak groundout to third and it was tied at 1-1 after six.

2. Roark's line: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 72 P, 7/4 GO/FO. Has Roark done enough this spring to convince the Nationals he deserves the fifth spot? Is it easier to keep him in a relief role since Taylor Jordan, who's also impressed this spring can start? One week for Matt Williams and his staff to make the decision...

Mets' announcer and former major league pitcher Ron Darling was impressed:

So was the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell:

1. Wrapping Up: Ian Desmond doubled to center on a hanging curve with two down in the Nats' seventh, but got caught trying to steal third. Drew Storen took over in the bottom of the seventh and promptly gave up the lead, walking the first batter he faced and then serving up a fastball out over the plate that Curtis Granderson deposited in the right field grass where a group of Mets fans dove for and fought over it. 3-1 Mets.

Ryan Mattheus got some work in the seventh and eighth.

Right-hander Aaron Barrett got two outs with one pitch, coming on for Mattheus with one out in the eighth and inducing a ground ball that started an inning double play.

Bobby Parnell came on to try to close it out and hit Scott Hairston square in the back with a fastball in the first at bat, but retired the next three batters to finish the game.

Mets win, 3-1 final.