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Sweepless in Seattle: Nationals drop series finale to Mariners, 5-3

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You're welcome for the title. The Washington Nationals took the first two games of their three-game set with the Seattle Mariners, but dropped the series finale, 5-3, with Dustin Ackley's three-run home run in the fifth the difference this afternoon.

Otto Greule Jr

Grunge, Coffee, "Singles" and Rain Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: The Washington Nationals hit a total of seven home runs in the first two games of their three-game set in Safeco Field, six the first night and one in the second game of their Interleague series with Seattle on Saturday. The eighth four-bagger of the weekend was probably the most impressive, however. Bryce Harper got a hold of an 0-1 curve from Mariners' starter Hisashi Iwakuma and bounced it off the glass window of the "Hit It Here Cafe" in right field, just under the red and white "Hit It Here" sign with the bullseye target. 1-0 Nats on Harper's 9th.

Nate Schierholtz made it 2-0 with his first home run as a National and the Nationals' ninth home run of the series in Seattle, taking Iwakuma deep to center for a solo blast in the first at bat of the third. 2-0 Nats.

The Mariners cut into the Nationals' lead with shortstop Brad Miller doubling to right with one down and scoring from third on the second of two consecutive one-out singles by Austin Jackson and Dustin Ackley, respectively.

2-1 Nationals after three in Seattle... make that 3-1 Nationals.

Bryce Harper was 2 for 2 today with two home runs after he flat crushed a 3-1 splitter from Iwakuma, sending a solo home run to center and over the wall for an estimated 416ft blast. Harper's 10th of the season was the Nats' 10th of the series.

Back-to-back singles with one down in the Mariners' fifth brought Dustin Ackley up with two on and his three-run home run to right gave Seattle a 4-3 lead after five innings.

Endy Chavez hit a two-out RBI line drive to center off Craig Stammen in the bottom of the eighth and the Mariners won the series finale, 5-3.

4. The Myth of Row-Ark: Tanner Roark has had two shots at win no.13. [ed note - "Necessary caveat: Not that wins are, you know, a good way to like measure pitcher success or anything, I know."] Roark, 27, threw seven scoreless against the Arizona Diamondbacks on August 20th in D.C, but came away with no decision when the Nationals' blew a 2-0 lead in the top of the eighth only to walk off on the D-Backs in the bottom of the ninth.

Last time out, Roark gave up five hits, two walks and two runs in six innings of work on the road in Philadelphia, PA's Citizens Bank Park, but was outdueled by a well-nigh unhittable A.J. Burnett, who struck out 12 Nats' batters over his seven innings of work in what ended up a 3-2 Phillies' win.

"I felt good. Felt like I was commanding both sides of the plate. Offspeed was good. Felt good." -Tanner Roark on start vs Phillies last time out

Roark threw 32 pitches in a long, but ultimately scoreless first inning in CBP, 11 of the 32 to Phillies' first baseman Ryan Howard in a two-out at bat that ended in a walk.

The Phillies finally got to him in the fourth when Howard doubled, moved up on a hit by Marlon Byrd and scored on an RBI single by Domonic Brown.

The only other run he allowed in the outing came on a 2-0 changeup to Philly third baseman Cody Asche in the first at bat of the fifth. Overall, Roark was happy with the outing in spite of the fact that he took the loss.

"I felt good," Roark told reporters. "Felt like I was commanding both sides of the plate. Offspeed was good. Felt good."

He battled after the long first, but the long inning ran his pitch count up. He ended up throwing 103 pitches overall in his six innings on the mound. After the shaky opening frame, and the battle with Howard, he settled in nicely.

"It was a changeup, but it didn't 'change,' really. It was just a BP fastball. It was right down the middle, thigh-high and he got me." -Tanner Roark on changeup to Cody Asche in CBP

"I feel like Howard was the longest one, just fouling stuff off back," he said of his struggles in the first. "It was just one of those things. Have to keep battling, going after them, keep grinding, keep pounding the zone."

Two Phillies reached base in the first, but he stranded them both, which helped straighten him out.

"Any time you put up a zero on the board and get your offense right out there it's always a confidence booster," Roark said. "All in all, felt good today. Felt confident out there."

The one big mistake of the outing was the changeup to Asche, that was pretty well crushed.

"It was a changeup, but it didn't 'change,' really," Roark joked. "It was just a BP fastball. It was right down the middle, thigh-high and he got me."

The home run was the fourth he's surrendered in five starts and 32 IP this month, after he gave up four total in 90 ⅓ IP over 14 starts between May 16th and July 30th.

So far in August, the Nats' right-hander has put up a 3.09 ERA (up from 2.06 in July and 2.17 in June), a 4.44 FIP (up from 2.81 and 2.62 in the previous two months) and .233/.283/.390 line against (up from .197/.241/.278 in July, but down from a .259/.297/.313 line in June).

On the road this season, before today's series finale in Seattle, Roark was (6-3) in 13 starts, with a 3.27 ERA, a 3.33 FIP and a .221/.270/.344 line against in 82 ⅔ IP.

The first start of his major league career in Safeco Field began with a backwards K...

1st: Austin Jackson K'd looking at a 1-2 fastball inside that home plate ump Jim Joyce liked. Dustin Ackley sent a fly to left that Bryce Harper handled, as did Robinson Cano. 14-pitch, 1-2-3 frame for Roark.

2nd: Kendrys Morales hit an opposite field grounder by short for a leadoff single in the Mariners' second. Kyle Seager lined out to left for the first out of the frame. Chris Denorfia fouled strike three into Wilson Ramos' mitt on a 2-2 fastball from Roark. Endy Chavez sent a one-hop liner to second for the inning-ending force. 13-pitch 2nd, 27 total after two.

3rd: Mike Zunino hit the first pitch of the third out to Bryce Harper in left. Brad Miller doubled to right-center on an 0-1 change from Roark. Austin Jackson beat a bounced throw to first from Ian Desmond on a grounder to short to put runners on the corners with one down. Dustin Ackley worked the count full and singled up the middle, behind Ian Desmond, who was on his way over to cover second. Miller scored on Ackley's hit to cut the Nats' lead in half. Robinson Cano stepped in with runners on the corners and grounded to short to start an inning-ending 6-4-3. 13-pitch frame, 40 total.

4th: Kendry Morales grounded out to first to start the Mariners' fourth. Kyle Seager sent one through the right side for a one-out single. Chris Denorfia sent a fly ball to center for out no.2. Endy Chavez tried to bunt for a hit but Anthony Rendon handled it. 10-pitch fourth for Roark, 50 overall after four.

5th: Mike Zunino sent a can of corn out to Denard Span in center for the first out of Seattle's fifth. Brad Miller lined a single over short with one down. Austin Jackson lined a single to center in the next at bat, right in front of a charging Denard Span. Dustin Ackley followed with a three-run blast to right that gave the Mariners a 4-3 lead. Robinson Cano lined an opposite field single to left for the Mariners' fourth straight hit. Kendrys Morales grounded into an inning-ending 3-6-1 in the next AB. 21-pitch frame for Roark, 71 total after five.

6th: Kyle Seager sent a fly ball to center for the first out of the Mariners' sixth. A 92 mph 1-2 fastball got Chris Denorfia swinging. Endy Chavez grounded back to the mound to end a quick, 10-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth. 81 total.

7th: Mike Zunino K'd swinging at a diving 2-2 slider. Brad Miller was 3 for 3 after he lined a one-out single over second. Austin Jackson singled through the middle of the infield in the next at bat, ending Roark's outing...

Tanner Roark's Line: 6.1 IP, 11 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 92 P, 60 S, 6/6 GO/FO.

3. Iwakuma vs the Nationals: 33-year-old right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma's 2014 campaign, his third in Seattle after he signed a 1-year/$1.5M deal with the Mariners in 2011 and then agreed to a 2-year/$14M extension in 2012, after pitching for the Rakuten Golden Eagles (NPB), started a month late after he strained a tendon in his middle finger on his right hand.

In the first half, he was (8-4) in 14 starts, with a 2.98 ERA, a 3.20 FIP and a .245/.261/.366 line against in 96 ⅔. He's been even better in the second half of the 2014 season, with a (4-2) record in eight starts over which he's put up a 2.56 ERA, a 2.71 FIP and a .221/.248/.312 line against in 52 ⅔ IP.

At home in Safeco Field this season, Iwakuma was (6-5) in 12 starts before this afternoon's series finale with the Nationals, with a 2.98 ERA, a 3.11 FIP and a .228/.242/.339 line against in 84 ⅔ IP.

Iwakuma was, however, coming off a rough 2 ⅓-inning outing last time out against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park in which he gave up six hits, a walk and five earned runs before he was lifted.

In the four starts before that in August, the right-hander was (3-1) with a 0.61 ERA in 29 ⅓ IP over which he held opposing hitters to a combined .181/.204/.267 line.

The 23rd start of Iwakuma's third season began with a scoreless, 20-pitch first in which he worked around a two-out double to right-center by Jayson Werth.

One out into the second, the Mariners were down 1-0 after Bryce Harper absolutely demolished an 0-1 curve from Iwakuma, bouncing his 9th home run of the 2014 campaign off the glass window of the "Hit It Here Cafe" in right field, right under the "Hit it Here" sign with the target. ZOMG. 19-pitch second for Iwakuma, 39 total after two.

Nate Schierholtz hit the second home run of the game and the ninth home run of the series for the Nationals out to center field in Safeco Field for a 2-0 lead in the top of the third. Denard Span doubled to right in the second at bat of the inning, lining his 36th two-base hit of the season to right field. Span tagged and took third on a fly to center by Anthony Rendon, but was stranded there at the end of a 13-pitch frame by Iwakuma, who was up to 52 pitches after three innings pitched.

With one down in the fourth, Harper caught Iwakuma again, taking a 3-1 splitter to center for an [estimated] 416 ft blast. Harper's 10th and the Nationals' 10th this weekend made it 3-1 Nats. Iwakuma's 15-pitch fourth left him at 67 pitches overall.

Iwakuma needed nine pitches to retire the side in order in the Nationals' fifth, leaving him at 76 pitches total after five.

Given a 4-3 lead to work with, Iwakuma came back with a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth that left him at 86 pitches overall.

Hisashi Iwakuma's Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 Ks, 3 HR, 86 P, 57 S, 8/3 GO/FO.

2. Sweep Seattle?: The 77-57 Washington Nationals have swept each of the three Interleague series they've played with the Seattle Mariners since moving to the nation's capital in 2005, taking the first nine contests between the two teams and then taking the first two games of this weekend's three-game set in Safeco Field to improve to 11-0 overall against the AL West franchise.

After dropping three straight in Philadelphia to start their three-city, nine-game road trip, the Nationals had a chance this afternoon to even things up six games into the trip and give themselves a 20-9 month of August.

It wasn't to be, the Mariners finally won one against the Nationals, 5-3 in the series finale. 10-1 and 19-10 aren't too bad though.

1. The Wrap-Up: Lefty Charlie Furbush took over for the Mariners in the top of the seventh, and struck Bryce Harper out. Danny Farquhar replaced the left-hander with Wilson Ramos up second. Ramos K'd on a curve in the dirt, but reached first safely when it got by catcher Mike Zunino. Asdrubal Cabrera walked with one down. Danny Espinosa came on to run for Ramos at second, and took third on a fielder's choice force at second on a Nate Schierholtz grounder. Denard Span's groundout to first ended the threat.

Jerry Blevins took over on the mound in the seventh after Roark gave up back-to-back one-out singles by Brad Miller and Austin Jackson. Dustin Ackley sent a fly to left for out no.2. Robinson Cano grounded to first to end the threat.

Yoervis Medina came out for the top of the eighth inning and issued a two-out walk to Adam LaRoche, but Ian Desmond K'd looking to end the frame. Still 4-3 Mariners.

Blevins came back out for the bottom of the eighth. Kendrys Morales walked to start the frame. After Blevins got a fly to right from Kyle Seager he was replaced on the mound by Craig Stammen. Chris Denorfia stepped in with pinch runner James Jones at first. Jones stole second to put himself in scoring position. One out later, Jones stole third, and scored when Endy Chavez lined an RBI double to center. 5-3 Mariners.

Fernando Rodney gave up a leadoff single by Bryce Harper in the top of the ninth. Jose Lobaton lined out to a charging Austin Jackson for the first out of the frame. Asdrubal Cabrera grounded out to second, moving Harper up a base. Nate Schierholtz? Grounder to first. Ballgame.

Nationals now 77-57