With some help from Tanner Roark, who held the Atlanta Braves to a run on four hits in Sunday's series finale in D.C., the Washington Nationals head into Milwaukee tonight on a two-game win-streak.
The Nats bounced back after dropping the first two to Atlanta and falling to 1-7 against their NL East rivals and took the third and fourth games of the four-game set to reclaim and then hold on to first place in the division. Proving to themselves that they could beat the Braves after Atlanta dominated the first eight games between them this season and took 20 of 27 games in the last two years was an important step.
"It gives us a big vote of confidence in ourselves, in our hitting and our pitching and just going to keep it rolling," Roark told reporters after the Nationals' 4-1 win.
"We're going to Milwaukee and I know we've got a tough team out there so we're going to go into [that series] feeling good."
#CurlyW! pic.twitter.com/fXZUymqqoJ— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 22, 2014
Nats' skipper Matt Williams was happy with the way his team fought back after dropping the first two games to the Braves in the nation's capital. Doug Fister, with eight scoreless on Saturday, and Roark on Sunday, helped the Nationals get back in the series.
"After the first two I'm proud of the guys for staying in there and battling," Williams said. "We've talked about it many times, you have to have a short memory. After the first two, we got two real good pitching performances and guys battled to get some runs and played good defense and executed and that's what we'll have to continue to win games."
As for Roark's effort on the mound, Williams said that the 27-year-old right-hander wasn't particularly sharp, but as he did in his previous outings against the Houston Astros, he got by with what was working for him. The key, Williams explained, was having the ability to identify what was working and use it to his advantage.
"Just all those weapons," Williams said. "The ability to like he did last time out, not this time, but last time, couldn't find his fastball and he went to his curveball. He's got the ability to change on the fly out there and find something that he can throw for strikes that's working for him. Same case today, he wasn't throwing it exactly where he wanted to, but he was able to work through it. He wanted to stay in the game when I went and got him. Wasn't happy about that but he had two really long innings back-to-back, so it was a good opportunity to get [Craig Stammen] in there."
Roark worked around a single in the first, an error and walk in the fourth and some close calls on balls and strikes that didn't go his way, but was never rattled.
"He focuses on the next pitch, regardless of the call or regardless of whether he thought it was a strike or any of that," Williams said. "He's focused on the next one. That's a very good trait to have as a pitcher, for sure, because it doesn't affect him one way or another."
Williams was also asked if finally beating the Braves will stop all the chatter about Atlanta being in the Nationals' players' heads and having their number, but he said he knew two wins against a team that's taken seven of ten this season wasn't going to stop the chatter.
"I've been around the game a while and I realize that the next time we play them the same questions will come," he said.
"So, it doesn't matter to me, it doesn't matter to them, we want to win tomorrow's game. Today is over, we want to win tomorrow, and that's as far as we look. So, we'll answer the questions if somebody asks and go on from there, but if we do the things correctly on the field then we've got a chance to win and it's the same in the other clubhouse over there. So, every game presents new challenges, man."
The challenge tonight, will be beating a Milwaukee Brewers team that's won seven of their last ten games to improve to 47-30 on the year.