Another day, another solid start by Tanner Roark. Washington's 27-year-old right-hander earned his 15th win of the season, lowered his ERA on the year to 2.85 and improved to (3-1) in four September starts with 6 ⅓ innings of work on the mound in the Nationals' 4-2 win over the New York Mets last night in the nation's capital in which he gave up just five hits and two earned runs.
In his second full season in the majors, and 50+ innings over any previous total he's put up as a professional, Roark is still going strong with two walks (0.70 BB/9), 14 Ks (4.91 K/9), a 2.45 ERA, 3.28 FIP and a .237/.255/.354 line against in 25 ⅔ IP in September.
"Tanner was good," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after Roark and the Nationals' the win over the Mets.
"He was good. Ran into some trouble in the seventh. And we had two guys on there and I didn't want to have things go haywire for him so we decided to go to the bullpen. But he pitched good."
Roark pitched around a leadoff double in a scoreless first, then retired twelve straight Mets' hitters to get him to the fifth when Wilmer Flores and Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit leadoff and one out doubles, with Nieuwenhuis's hit driving in New York's first run.
After retiring the Mets in order in the sixth, the fourth and fifth hits Roark allowed came with one down in the seventh when Flores singled and Curtis Granderson doubled to put runners on second and third with one down.
Flores eventually scored for the second run Roark was charged with on the night, making it 4-2, but that was as close as the Mets would get.
Roark improved to (4-0) against the Nationals' NL East rivals from New York in four 2014 starts.
Williams was asked yet again after the outing what it is that allows Roark to continue to be successful?
"I think for him it's just the fact that he can throw multiple pitches for strikes," the Nats' skipper said.
"If he gets in an issue out there or has lost command of one of his pitches, he can go to another. And for him that's key. He doesn't blow the radar gun up, by any stretch. But he makes pitches and works both sides of the plate, and he's got four pitches to work with, so if his fastball is missing, he can use his changeup and his slider and his curveball, and he's been able to do that. That's the art of pitching, so [he's] been very consistent with that."
With the win, Roark improved to (15-10) after 31 starts with a 2.85 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 39 walks (1.77 BB/9) and 138 Ks (6.25 K/9) in 198 ⅔ IP... and yet, he might not even be a part of the Nationals' postseason rotation.
Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Roark and more-recently Gio Gonzalez have all made convincing arguments for their inclusion in the postseason rotation, but one of the four will likely end up in the bullpen by the end of next week. What does that say about the quality of the Nats' starting pitching?
"It says that they work hard and that they've been resilient all year, first and foremost," Williams said. "Because you get to this time of year, you've got guys pushing 200 innings, you've got Tanner going to places he's never been before. It's important for them to stay strong and do their work in-between starts. They all do that, and it's important for them to compete. When they go out there, they compete and it makes for tough decisions, but those are good tough decisions and you would not that decision made for you this time of year, you want to be able to say, 'Boy this is a hard one,' and that's a good thing for us, they're all pitching really well."
Williams said whatever decision he does make, he knows everyone involved will understand.
"Of course they will," he said. "Of course they'll understand. And at this point in the year, not everybody will like it, but everybody will understand. We are all on the same end of the rope and everybody must do their part for us to get to where we want to get to."
In an interview on the MLB Network Radio show "First Pitch" this morning, Wiliams maintained that the decision on the Nats' postseason rotation hasn't been made yet.
Williams on rotation: "Every one of our SP has made a case to be one our starters during the playoffs so it a difficult question to answer"— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) September 24, 2014
"We're working on it," Williams told hosts Jim Memolo and Todd Hollandsworth. "We've got important games to play over this last week and we don't know exactly who we're playing yet, and we may not know until Sunday, but I'll tell you this, I was asked the question yesterday and the response was, 'Boy they all make the case don't they?'
"They really do. Every one of our starting pitchers has made a case to be one of our starters during the playoffs. So it's a difficult question to be answered, but who wouldn't want to make that difficult decision, because everybody has pitched so well.
"So we'll evaluate everything. We don't have anything in stone yet given all those factors, but it's right around the corner now, so we'll see how it all shakes out pretty soon."