Tanner Roark deserved this one. Say what you will about pitcher wins being a poor measure of a starter's success, which they, of course, are, but the Washington Nationals' 27-year-old right-hander was dominant on the mound against the Oakland Athletics last night in the O.co Coliseum, holding the A's to one run on just two hits (one a home run by John Jaso) in 7 2/3 IP and he ended up with no decision when the Nats' bullpen blew a 3-1 lead and lost it in extra innings.
A's outfielder Josh Reddick's leadoff single in the eighth inning broke a streak of 13 straight batters set down by the Nats' starter, who retired 18 of 19 batters before that hit and after a two-out, first-inning error by Nationals' third baseman Anthony Rendon.
Roark got a line drive to second from Eric Sogard one out after Reddick's streak-ending hit in the eighth and Nationals' second baseman Danny Espinosa made the catch and threw to first to double Reddick up for what should have been an inning-ending DP, but the ball hit the back of the A's outfielder's helmet and bounced into the first base dugout.
Reddick took third on the error and Nats' skipper Matt Williams took the ball from Roark, bringing Tyler Clippard on to get the final out of the eighth inning, which he did.
Rafael Soriano then took the ball in the ninth with a 3-1 lead and blew his first save of the season, leaving Roark with no decision.
As Williams said after the game, it was one you expect to win when you hand it to your closer, who was a perfect 7 for 7 in save opportunities in 2014 and 19 for his last 19 overall going back to last season.
"Going into the ninth with a two-run lead with a guy that hasn't given up a run in 25 innings and it doesn't happen for you it's disappointing," Williams told reporters, "but that's baseball. Have to come play tomorrow."
"We got [Roark] through the eighth and like I said, any time we've got a chance to turn it over to Soriano in the ninth with a two-run lead we'll take our chances. Tonight it didn't happen for us."
Asked what was working for Roark, who was coming off a four-inning outing against the Phillies in which he was hit hard and knocked out after just four innings of work, Williams said it was all about his right-hander locating his fastball and working off of that.
"Fastball location," he stressed. "Just like we talked about. Tonight he threw the fastball in to left-handers. Comeback fastball to freeze a few guys. And he pitched really well."
Roark's line: 7.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HR, 95 P, 62 S, 5/5 GO/FO.
A's skipper Bob Melvin said it was a relief for his hitters to get Roark out of the game, though facing the Nationals' bullpen wasn't an easy task.
"It's not like their bullpen is any day at the beach," Melvin told reporters after Oakland's 4-3 walk-off win. "I mean, you look at the numbers, they have three or four guys down there that they can rely on to close out games. But it is, we weren't getting any good swings, except for John."
It wasn't an easy nights for the Nationals' hitters either, who did, however, manage to score three runs against the A's 24-year-old, 2011 1st Round pick, Sonny Gray. Danny Espinosa crushed a 91 mph 2-1 fastball from the right-hander, hitting a solo home run to right with one down in the third and three more hits followed, with Zach Walters and Denard Span singling and scoring when Kevin Frandsen drove both in with a two-run double to center field.
"He gave up, I think it was four hits in a row," Melvin said, going back to Gray's rough third. "You don't expect him to give up two hits in a row let along four hits in a row, but they got some good swings. The home run was a bit of a shock, because he started out so good. Usually he works his way into a rhythm, and he started out really well and hit a little bit of a speed bump in the [third] where they got some decent swings off him But like he does, after that he comes back out there and does his thing and keeps you in the game."
Gray held it close in spite of a few runners reaching while he remained on the mound for four scoreless after he gave up three in the third.
Williams was happy with the rally against a tough pitcher like Gray, who entered last night's game with a 1.91 ERA, a 3.02 FIP, 16 walks (3.06 BB/9) and 40 Ks (7.66 K/9) over his first seven starts and 47 1/3 IP this season.
"We need to do that every day," Williams said. "We need to put together stuff like that. Had our chance. Going into the last inning. We'll take that every day."
And they'll take pitching like they got from Roark every day too, though on Saturday night it wasn't enough.
We talked about Roark's outing, Gray's stuff and the Nationals' disappointing loss on the latest late-night edition of Nats Nightly after the game: