5. Roark vs Cubs Redux: In his first start of the year back on May 25th in Chicago, Tanner Roark gave up three hits and one earned run over five innings of work in a 2-1 win over the Cubs in Wrigley Field. He followed that outing up with a six-inning start vs the Cincinnati Reds last weekend in Great American Ballpark in which he allowed four hits and two earned runs in what ended up an 8-2 loss in which he received no decison.
After two turns in the rotation in Doug Fister's spot, Roark, 28, who won 15 games in 2014 before the Max Scherzer signing moved him to the bullpen, is now (19-11) in 38 career starts, over which he's put up a 2.69 ERA, a 3.51 FIP, 46 walks (1.72 BB/9) and 163 Ks (6.10 K/9) in 240 ⅔ IP with a .230/.275/.342 line.
His outing against the Reds, Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters, was just more of the same. He was lifted after 92 pitches in six innings of work for pinch hitter Clint Robinson when the Nationals had an opportunity to go ahead after a two-run single by Michael Taylor tied the game up at 2-2.
"Just more of the same, again," Williams said.
"He got to [92 pitches], if we send him back out there he's going to have to go through that inning and we risk getting him well over a hundred, so at this point we don't want to do that."
Roark took the mound against the Cubs again tonight, this time in the nation's capital, (2-2) in four games and three starts against Chicago in his career, with a 5.03 ERA, three walks and 13 Ks in 19 ⅔ IP over which Cubs' hitters had a combined .325/.345/.425 line against him.
His fourth start against his "hometown" team began with the Wilmington, Illinois-born starter throwing a quick, 12-pitch, 1-2-3 first, which ended with Cubs' third baseman Kris Bryant taking a high 2-2 fastball for a called third strike.
Roark needed 16 pitches to get through another 1-2-3 frame in the second which left him at 28 pitches total.
Given a three-run lead to work with, Roark came out for the third and retired the Cubs in order again, this time on 14 pitches, leaving him at 42 overall with nine up and nine down.
Roark was up to ten straight outs to start the game when Anthony Rizzo got hold of a first-pitch fastball and bounced it off the facade of the second deck in right. Solo HR, no.10 for Rizzo, 3-1 Nationals. Kris Bryant doubled off the wall in left in the next at bat, but was thrown out at second on a strong throw in by Michael Taylor and expertly applied tag by Danny Espinosa. 17-pitch fourth for Roark, 59 total after four.
Junior Lake singled to right on a 1-2 slider in the first at bat of the fifth, and took second on a groundout to second by Starlin Castro, but he was stranded there when Roark threw a 94 mph 2-2 fastball by pinch hitter Mike Baxter to end a 20-pitch fifth at 79 pitches.
After diving play at third by Anthony Rendon robbed Addison Russell of a hit, Dexter Fowler lined a one-out single to right to put a runner on in front of Anthony Rizzo, who hit his second home run of the game to straight center in Nationals Park to make it a 5-3 game. No.11 on the year for Rizzo, no.2 on the night. One out later, Miguel Montero got hold of a 2-1 fastball and sent another one out to center to make it 5-4 Nationals.
• Tanner Roark's Line: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 6 Ks, 3 HR, 97 P, 65 S, 6/2 GO/FO.
4. Wada in Washington: Chicago Cubs' left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, in his second start of 2015 after coming off a DL stint for a groin injury suffered this Spring, held the Washington Nationals to one run on four hits in 5 ⅓ IP last week in Wrigley Field, walking two and striking out six on 83 pitches.
He followed that outing up with 5 ⅔ innings of work vs the Kansas City Royals in which the 34-year-old left-hander gave up just two hits, two walks and one earned run. Cubs' skipper Joe Maddon went to the bullpen after Wada allowed the second walk of the game with two down in the sixth inning on his 96th pitch.
"I thought it was his best outing," Maddon told reporters, including the Daily Herald's Bruce Miles. "I took the walk as the sign that was the Waterloo moment right there … From my perspective, I'm seeing a little bit of a labor."
That start left Wada with a 2.30 ERA, a 3.50 FIP, five walks (2.87 BB/9) and 19 Ks (10.91 K/9) through three starts and 15 ⅔ IP this season, over which he's held opposing hitters to a .182 BAA and a .235 BABIP.
Wada signed with the Cubs after three seasons in the Baltimore Orioles' organization following a nine-year career in Nippon Professional Baseball with the Fukoaka Softbank Hawks in which he won 107 games.
Tonight in Nationals Park, Wada's fourth start of the season and his second vs the Nats, (who had a .244/.315/.381 line against lefties before tonight, good for 12th in AVG, 12th in OBP and 8th in SLG), began with a 15-pitch first in which he worked around a two-out walk to Bryce Harper.
Wilson Ramos lined an opposite field single to right in the first at bat of the second, and took third base on a double to left by Ian Desmond and both runners scored when Danny Espinosa took an 89 mph 2-2 fastball for a ride, deeep to left and over the visitor's bullpen for a three-run blast and a 3-0 lead, no.7 for Espinosa. 20-pitch frame for Wada, 35 total after two.
Ryan Zimmerman singled to start the Nationals' third, and took third base on a double to right by Bryce Harper, but Harper was tagged out between second and third was Zimmerman was stopped by third base coach Bob Henley. Two outs later, Zimmerman was stranded at third after Anthony Rendon grounded out to third and Wilson Ramos lined out to a sliding Junior Lake in right.
Ian Desmond singled to center and appeared to score on a double to left field by Danny Espinosa, but the ball got stuck under the wall in the left field corner and Chris Coghlan threw up his arms (as he should) so it was ruled a ground-rule double that halted Desmond at third. A sac fly by Michael Taylor brought Desmond in though, 4-1.
Denard Span sent a single back up the middle to bring Espinosa in, 5-1. Wada walked Bryce Harper with two down to load'em up for Anthony Rendon. But Rendon didn't face the Cubs' starter...
• Tsuyoshi Wada's Line: 3.2 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HR, 62 P, 37 S, 2/3 GO/FO.
3. Nationals' offensive woes: Matt Williams was asked after last night's 2-1 loss to the Cubs, their seventh loss in the last ten and third straight overall, about the missed opportunities for Nationals' hitters, who went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, and left nine runners on base in what ended up a one-run game.
"We had opportunity," Williams said. "It didn't happen, so we're going to try to continue to create those opportunities.
"There [are] ebbs and flows to seasons, in every aspect, pitching, defense, offense. So if we can continue to create those opportunities, then we have chances to win games. We had some tonight, didn't happen for us."
Over the course of their three-game losing streak, the Nationals have created opportunities, but have gone 2 for 19 with runners in scoring position.
A reporter wondered if their recent issues with runners in scoring position was something they needed to address?
"We can look back a week and a half," he said, "and it seems like we were getting a hit every time there was a guy in scoring position. So the key to this whole thing is not to be one way or the other. Everybody that steps up there wants to get a base hit when they guy is out there, they want to get the guy in from third, so we've got to let them play, they understand. They're professional players. They feel it when they don't, and they support each other, so we'll come out tomorrow and see if we can do a better job of that, score a whole bunch of runs and beat the Cubs."
Does three count as a bunch? Danny Espinosa drove the first two runners in scoring position in tonight with a three-run blast in the second that put the Nationals up 3-0 early.
The Nationals added two more in the fourth on a sac fly by Michael Taylor and an RBI single by Denard Span for a 5-1 lead after four.
2. Turning Point(s): In desperate need of offense, the Nationals scored three runs early on Danny Espinosa's seventh home run of the season, a three-run blast that followed a leadoff single by Wilson Ramos and a double by Ian Desmond that put two runners in scoring position with no one out. Espinosa's blast cleared the visiting team's bullpen by about five rows and put the Nationals up 3-0 over the Cubs.
• Ian Desmond singled and Danny Espinosa doubled in the first two at bats of the fourth, but Espinosa's grounder to the left field corner got wedged under the wall, so it was ruled a ground-rule double and Desmond was stopped at third.
Michael Taylor hit a sac fly to right field in the next at bat, however, bringing Desmond in and Espinosa scored on an RBI single by Denard Span that put the Nationals up, 5-1 after four, after Cubs' slugger Anthony Rizzo got Chicago on the board with a solo home run to right in the top of the frame.
• Tanner Roark ran out of gas quickly, and Matt Williams appeared to leave him in a couple batters too long. Two line drives started the top of the sixth, with Anthony Rendon robbing Addison Russell of a single on the first before Dexter Fowler singled on the second hard-hit ball. With Roark laboring, Anthony Rizzo worked the count full and got a fastball he could handle, taking it out to deep center field for a two-run blast that made it 5-3 Nationals.
With relievers trying to warm up ASAP, Roark gave up another home run to center, this one by Miguel Montero as the Cubs pulled within one at 5-4 after five and a half.
• I believe they're called "insurance runs". What are they you ask? They're runs late in a game when you have a lead that give you a little bit more of a cushion. The Nationals added one with two down in the seventh when Anthony Rendon singled and scored on a Wilson Ramos double. 6-4 Nationals after seven in D.C.
The Nats added another one in the eighth, 7-4.
1. The Wrap-Up: Edwin Jackson took over on the mound for Wada with the bases loaded and Anthony Rendon at the plate and got a popout to third to end the fourth.
Travis Wood came on for the Cubs in the bottom of the fifth and retired the side in order, striking out two.
Aaron Barrett came on to record the final two outs of the Cubs' sixth after they rallied to get within one.
After a scoreless bottom of the sixth by Travis Wood, the Cubs' reliever singled off Casey Janssen with two out in the top of the seventh, but the Nats' right-hander completed a scoreless 13-pitch frame to keep it 5-4 Nationals.
Justin Grimm gave up a two-out, line drive single to center by Anthony Rendon, and he scored from first on an RBI double to right-center by Wilson Ramos, 6-4.
Blake Treinen took over with a two-run lead in the eighth and almost, almost gave up Anthony Rizzo's third blast of the night. The Cubs' hard-hitting first baseman hit a 1-0 fastball to right-center, but Denard Span tracked it to the wall and made a leaping grab to take a long double away. 10-pitch frame for Treinen.
Zac Rosscup gave up one-out walk to Michael Taylor in the bottom of the eighth and Taylor came around to score on a pinch hit double to left by Dan Uggla, 7-4.
Drew Storen came on looking for save no.18 of 2015 gave up a two-out double by Starlin Castro and an RBI single by Chris Coghlan, 7-5, before he shut the door. Ballgame.
Nationals now 30-25