5. Row-ark in Wrigley Field: Following a (15-10), +3.2 fWAR season as part of the NL East Champion Washington Nationals' rotation, Tanner Roark was shifted to the bullpen after the Nats signed Max Scherzer to a 7-year/$210M deal this winter. In 13 appearances and 20 ⅓ IP as a reliever this season, the 28-year-old right-hander has a 2.66 ERA, a 4.47 FIP, five walks (2.21 BB/9), seven Ks (3.10 K/9) and a .295/.333/.449 line against. Doug Fister was DL'd last week with a strained flexor muscle in his right forearm, however, so the Nationals made the decision to move Roark back into the rotation for at least today's start against the Chicago Cubs.
"'You can run a 15-game winner with a sub-3.00 ERA as a starter to be quote-unquote an ’emergency starter’? That’s a good thing,'" Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told reporters, including the Washington Post's Chelsea Janes, last week.
"'That was part of our plan in the offseason when we knew we had Max [Scherzer], that this was going to be a deep rotation. It certainly helps to have an established starter as your sixth guy, and then you can go with your depth in your minor leagues, with [A.J.] Cole and Taylor Jordan after that.'"
In 36 starts and 229 ⅔ IP since he made his MLB debut in 2013, Roark has a 2.70 ERA, a 3.34 FIP, 43 walks (1.69 BB/9), 159 Ks (6.23 K/9) and a .233/.276/.338 line.
The Wilmington, Illinois-born, '08 Texas Rangers' 25th Round pick, acquired by the Nats in a 2011 trade for infielder Cristian Guzman, got the call with Washington in Chicago for the start of a three-game set in Wrigley Field.
In three appearances (two as a starter) against the Cubs before today, Roark was (1-2) with a 6.14 ERA, two walks and 10 Ks in 14 ⅔ innings pitched over which Cubbies' hitters had a combined .365/.379/.444 line.
His third career start against his "hometown" team began with the Nationals ahead 1-0 on the strength of a Denard Span home run in the top of the first. It was quickly tied up at 1-1 after Cubs' rookie Kris Bryant hit a 1-0 slider out to left field for a one-out solo blast, his 6th of the season. 11-pitch frame for Roark in the first.
Roark issued a one-out walk to Chris Coghlan in the second, and it looked like the free pass might hurt him when Tsuyoshi Wada lined to left-center with two down, but Michael Taylor made it to the gap and made a spectacular diving play to end a 19-pitch frame. 30 total.
Kris Bryant reached safely with two down in the Cubs' half of the third on a chopper toward short that Ian Desmond could not barehand. Anthony Rizzo stepped in with a runner on and two out and lined a 3-2 change to left, where Bryce Harper made a leaping catch for out no.3. 14-pitch frame, 44 total after three. Still 1-1 in Wrigley.
Jorge Soler singled to center with one down in the Cubs' fourth, but was dead-to-rights at second on a botched hit and run with Chris Coghlan swinging and missing at the plate. Coghlan's grounder to second ended a quick, nine-pitch frame that left Roark at 53 pitches.
Back-to-back backwards Ks and foul pop off first ended a quick, 13-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth for Roark, who was up to 66 pitches overall after five.
• Tanner Roark's Line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 66 P, 46 S, 5/2 GO/FO.
The line on Tanner Roark: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K -- 66 pitches, 46 strikes. Blake Treinen on to pitch the 6th. pic.twitter.com/XbY3oYX11z— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 25, 2015
4. Wada vs Washington: Tsuyoshi Wada, 34, started the season on the DL with a mild left groin strain after a (4-4) season in the Chicago Cubs' rotation in 2014 in which he put up a 3.25 ERA, a 3.75 FIP, 19 walks (2.47 BB/9) and 57 Ks (7.40 K/9) in 69 ⅓ IP.
In six rehab starts with the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate, Wada was (1-3) with a 2.86 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 10 walks (2.60 BB/9) and 29 Ks (7.53 K/9) before he was called back up to the majors to take Travis Wood's spot in the rotation when Wood was moved to the bullpen.
In his first start of the season for the Cubs, Wada went 4 ⅔ IP against the San Diego Padres last week, giving up four hits, a walk and two earned runs while striking out nine batters in a 3-2 win in which he received no decision.
Wada allowed two earned runs or less in nine of his 13 starts last season. In 55 plate appearances in the majors so far in his career, the left-handed has held lefties to a combined .184/.245/.184 line, while right-handers have posted a .270/.325/.474 line.
The second start of the 2015 campaign for the southpaw who spent nine seasons with NPB's Fukuoaka Softbank Hawks before signing with the Baltimore Orioles in 2011, and then the Cubs in 2014, began with a solo home run to right off Denard Span's bat. Span got hold of an 89 mph 2-2 fastball and sent it out to right field for a 1-0 lead. 17-pitch first for Wada.
Addison Russell made a spectacular diving play at second and a strong throw to first to end an eight-pitch, 1-2-3 second by Wada, who was up to 25 pitches total after two.
Wada got Tanner Roark swinging and Ian Desmond looking for two of the three outs in a 16-pitch, 1-2-3 third that left him at 41 pitches.
Bryce Harper doubled to right on a first-pitch slider from Wada with one down in the top of the fourth, connecting for his 9th two-base hit of 2015, and Ryan Zimmerman walked in the next at bat to put two on for Wilson Ramos, who popped out to Anthony Rizzo in foul territory off first. Danny Espinosa got a two-out opportunity, and walked to load the bases for Michael Taylor, who went down swinging to end a 21-pitch fourth by Wada. 62 total. 5 Ks. Still 1-1.
Tanner Roark singled to left, moved up to second on a bunt and took third base on a pitch in the dirt with one down in the fifth. Ian Desmond K'd looking at a low 2-2 fastball that home plate ump Ryan Blakney liked. Yunel Escobar got a two-out RBI opportunity, worked the count full, and sent a fly to right to end a 16-pitch fifth that left Wada at 78 pitches.
Wada popped Bryce Harper up for the first of the sixth, but was done for the day after 83 pitches.
• Tsuyoshi Wada's Line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 83 P, 51 S, 5/2 GO/FO.
3. Harper in Wrigley: With a 2 for 3, one walk, day in the series finale with the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday in D.C., Bryce Harper finished the Nationals' five-game homestand 4 for 14 with two home runs and a .333/.471/.728 line on the year.
In 44 games and 187 plate appearances, the 22-year-old slugger has hit eight doubles and 16 HRs, while drawing 39 walks, one more than he drew in 100 games and 395 PAs last season.
Harper also managed to make a few solid defensive plays in right as well, diving for a liner and throwing a runner out at second on a line drive.
Nationals' manager Matt Williams talked after the Nats' 4-1 win over the Phillies on Sunday about Harper's entire game coming together this season.
"The secret of success for him or any other player is two-out base hits with guys in scoring position," Williams said.
"Getting those guys in from third with less than two out. That's what will make a fantastic season. He accomplished both of those today, he's playing great defense, he'll hit balls over the fence, but that won't be the measure of his success, it will be those little things that he does within the course of the game that allows us to get an extra run or cut a run down, things of that nature."
Harper started the series 6 for 17 with three doubles in four games in Wrigley Field. He K'd looking at a 90 mph 1-2 fastball in his first at bat.
The second time up, after a leaping catch at the wall to end the Cubs' third, Harper hit a one-out line drive double to right on a first-pitch slider from Wada.
Harper led off the sixth, but popped up on a 3-1 fastball. He threatened to, but didn't break his bat over his knee. It was, however, the bat's fault. Clearly. 1 for 3 with a K. Harper spit on a 96 mph 3-2 fastball outside from Cubs' lefty Zac Rosscup and walked in his fourth trip to the plate in the eighth.
2. Turning Point(s): Five pitches into the series opener in Wrigley Field, the Nationals were up 1-0 after Denard Span hit his 4th HR of the season out to right field on a 2-2 fastball from Tsuyoshi Wada. 1-0.
• Kris Bryant tied it up at 1-1 with a solo blast to left (no.6) on a hanging curve from Tanner Roark in the bottom of the first inning, and it looked like the Cubs might jump ahead in the second when starter Tsuyoshi Wada lined to left-center off Tanner Roark with two out and a runner on first, but Nats' left fielder Michael Taylor made a spectacular diving catch in the gap to keep it tied up after two.
• The Nationals loaded the bases with two out in the fourth, and Michael Taylor got himself into a hitter's count, 3-1, but Wada threw back-to-back fastballs by the Nats' rookie outfielder and struck him out to the delight of the Wrigley Field crowd, which rose to its feet for the final pitch of the at bat and exploded in cheers after the strikeout.
• Wilson Ramos hit his third home run of the season out to right field on a 95 mph 0-1 fastball from Cubs' reliever Justin Grimm in the sixth, putting the Nationals ahead, 2-1, with the 368ft+ blast. #hornsup
1. The Wrap-Up: Justin Grimm took over on the mound for the Cubs with one down in the Nationals' sixth and Ryan Zimmerman at the plate. Zimmerman grounded out to short, but Wilson Ramos got hold of a 95 mph 0-1 fastball in the next at bat and powered it out to right, 368 ft at the wall, and he cleared it by another 20-30. 2-1 Nationals on the 3rd HR of the season by Ramos.
Blake Treinen took over for the Nationals in the bottom of the sixth and gave up a two-out double to right by Anthony Rizzo, but Starlin Castro lined out to center to end a scoreless 17-pitch frame.
Michael Taylor tried to bunt for a hit in the first at bat of the seventh with Jason Motte on the mound for the Cubs, and pushed one toward first where Anthony Rizzo bobbled it and dropped the ball. Treinen bunted Taylor into scoring position at second and he took third on a groundout by Denard Span, but was stranded there when Ian Desmond sent a fly to left to the end the top of the inning.
Chris Coghlan singled with one down in the Cubs' seventh, but Treinen pulled an inning-ending 3-6-1 out of pinch hitter Mike Baxter.
After a scoreless top of the eighth, Matt Thornton took over on the mound for the Nationals and got a lineout to left from Miguel Montero before handing it off to Aaron Barrett, who struck Addison Russell out with a 95 mph 1-2 fastball inside for out no.2. Dexter Fowler's fly to center ended the inning. Still 2-1 Nats.
Drew Storen came on looking for save no.15 of 2015 and hit Kris Bryant with a 2-2 fastball in on the hands in teh first at bat. Anthony Rizzo stepped in with a runner on and popped out to short-center for out no.1. ONE! Starlin Castro sent out no.2 to Denard Span in center. TWO!! Jorge Soler? Swinging K. Ballgame.
Nationals now 27-18