Tanner Roark threw 22 of the 95 pitches he ended up throwing in his 2014 debut in the first inning of the series finale with the New York Mets on April 3rd in Citi Field. With just a few hours notice, Roark was pressed into service a day earlier than planned when Jordan Zimmermann was scratched from the start with flu-like symptoms.
After giving up a three hits, a walk and two runs in the first, the 27-year-old right-hander settled in.
Roark ended up putting together an efficient outing. He needed just six pitches to get through the second, four pitches to get through the third and 10 pitches in each of the next three innings of what ended up being an 8-2 Nationals' win.
"Rough first inning for Tanner," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after the series finale in NY. "But he settled in nice. It's easy to have things snowball right there, but he stopped it and gave us a chance. Which is great."
The rough first didn't shake Roark, whose poise on the mound former Nationals' manager Davey Johnson said last summer was "unbelievable."
"He just battled through it," Williams said after the series-sweeping win over the Mets. "Didn't have a real good feel for his breaking ball early and left some balls up, but he settled in. It's been a while since he pitched, and so, he got the feel starting in the second inning and went from there."
Roark is scheduled to make his second start of the season tonight in Atlanta, GA's Turner Field.
The right-hander debuted against the Braves on last August 7th, giving up one hit in two scoreless innings in a 6-3 loss in Nationals Park.
When Stephen Strasburg was ejected from his August 17, 2013 start against the Nats' NL East rivals, Roark took over on the mound and completed four scoreless innings against Atlanta, giving up just one hit in what ended up an 8-7 win.
In his lone start against the 2013 NL East Division Champions, Roark gave up two hits and a walk in seven scoreless innings of work to earn his seventh win in a 4-0 victory in the nation's capital last September.
When Davey Johnson told Roark he was done that day, the rookie pitcher asked Johnson if he was sure.
"I said, 'Nice game,'" Johnson told reporters. "He said, 'You're sure? I'm through?' I said, 'Yeah. You're through," Johnson laughed.
The former Nats' manager said Roark lived up the glowing scouting reports he received before he was called up to make his MLB debut last summer:
"[Nats' pitching coordinator] Spin [Williams] gave me good reports on him," Johnson told reporters. "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."
The Nationals will be hoping for more of the same from Roark when he takes on Atlanta tonight in the first game of their three-game series in Turner Field.
Braves' hitters have a .098/.140/.098 line against Roark through 13 innings against the Nats' righty early in his major league career.
Through 15 games and six starts in the majors overall, Roark has a 1.66 ERA, a 2.48 FIP, 14 walks (2.11 BB/9) and 45 Ks (6.79 K/9) in 59 2/3 IP over which he's held opposing hitters to a .211/.257/.249 line.
Can he keep it up against the Braves tonight and help the Nationals win their fifth straight game?