5. Roark vs the Braves: In four starts since returning to the Washington Nationals' rotation, 28-year-old Nats' right-hander Tanner Roark has gone (0-2) with a 5.68 ERA, a 5.62 FIP, six walks (2.84 BB/9), eight Ks (3.79 K/9) and a .342/.400/.526 line against in 19 innings, leaving him (3-3) in ten starts this season with a 5.64 ERA, a 5.48 FIP, 2.05 BB/9 and 4.44 K/9 in 52 ⅔ IP this season, over which opposing hitters have put up a .304/.352/.495 line against him.
Coming off a (15-10) season as a full-time member of the Nationals' rotation in 2014, which saw him post a 2.85 ERA, a 3.47 FIP, 39 walks (1.77 BB/9), 138 Ks (6.25 K/9) and a .236/.281/.351 line against in 31 starts and 198 ⅔ IP, it's hard not to view his 2015 campaign as something of a disappointment, though his movement back and forth between the bullpen and rotation and his lack of a role as a reliever surely didn't help.
Nats' skipper Matt Williams has, however, talked about Roark's willingness to do what's asked of him as one of his strongest attributes.
"He just doesn't care," Williams told reporters earlier this season. "If it's an inning he's ready to pitch that inning, if it's three he's ready for that and if it's a start he's ready for that. So he enjoys the opportunity to pitch whenever it is and wherever it is, and he's proven that he can handle all of them. That's mentality more than anything, just not caring what the situation is and getting outs, that's how he views it."
Last time out, Roark faced the Baltimore Orioles in a 5-4 loss in the nation's capital in which he received no decision, giving up five hits, two walks and three earned runs in five innings.
"Felt good," Roark told reporters after the outing. "All of my pitches were working today. Utilized the changeup a lot more this outing, but felt good."
He made his second start of the month against the Braves tonight, after giving up five hits, three walks and one run in 4 ⅓ IP on September 4th in the nation's capital.
Tonight in Turner Field, Roark's eleventh start of the year began with a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 first.
A.J. Pierzynski singled to start the Braves' second, but was doubled up on a 3-6-1 DP off Nick Swisher's bat. Hector Olivera's pop to second ended an eight pitch second that left Roark at 20 total after two.
Michael Bourn singled to right with one down in the bottom of the third and took second when Braves' starter Matt Wisler bunted him over/gave up an out, but he was stranded there at the end of a 13-pitch third by Roark. 33 total.
Roark retired the first two batters in the home-half of the fourth, but left a 1-1 curve up for A.J. Pierzynski, who deposited it in the right field seats. Solo HR, 1-0 Braves. 13-pitch frame, 46 total.
A strike'em out, throw'em out double play ended a scoreless 17-pitch fifth by Tanner Roark, who was up to 63 pitches after working around a HBP on Hector Olivera that knocked the Braves' third baseman out of the game.
With the game tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Roark walked Nick Markakis with one down then retired the next two batters in a 16-pitch frame that left him at 79 pitches.
A.J. Pierzynski stepped in to lead off the Braves' seventh and hit a 93 mph 3-2 fastball out this time, sending his second home run of the game and his ninth of the season to center field to make it 2-1 Atlanta.
A two-out single by Andrelton Simmons ended Roark's night...
• Tanner Roark's Line: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 2 HRs, 104 P, 64 S, 10/1 GO/FO.
The line on Tanner Roark tonight: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K -- 104 pitches, 64 strikes. pic.twitter.com/YSxo0nFcuf— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 30, 2015
4. Wisler while you work: In 18 games, 17 starts, and 93 ⅓ IP so far in his rookie campaign, 23-year-old Atlanta Braves right-hander Matt Wisler has put up a 5.40 ERA, a 5.16 FIP, 37 walks (3.57 BB/9), 65 Ks (6.27 K/9) and a .296/.361/.505 line against.
Four of his 17 starts, and his one relief appearance this season have come against the Washington Nationals he faced tonight in the opening game of the three-game set in Turner Field.
In the previous five outings, the San Diego Padres' 2011 7th Round pick, acquired in the Craig Kimbrel deal this past April, was (1-2) with a 7.62 ERA, nine walks, nine Ks and a .339/.385/.591 line against in 13 innings.
His last start against the Braves' NL East rivals from D.C., lasted just 1 ⅔ innings, over which the Nationals collected five hits, three walks and seven earned runs before he was done on the mound in the nation's capital.
Tonight, however, Wisler was facing Washington in Atlanta's Turner Field, where he's put up a 3.80 ERA (vs 6.75 on the road), a 4.41 FIP (vs 5.79) and a .265/.343/.410 line against in 42 ⅔ IP (vs .307/.376/.587 in 50 ⅔ outside of GA).
His outing began with back-to-back singles to center by Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner, but the Nationals failed to advance either runner. 24-pitch frame for Wisler.
Ian Desmond doubled off the yellow line atop the center field wall in the first at bat of the Nationals' second, settling for his 27th double of the year. He made it over to third one out later on a fly to right by Wilson Ramos, but was stranded there when Tanner Roark struck out to end a seven-pitch frame, 31 total.
Bryce Harper walked with two down in the Nationals' third, setting a new franchise record for walks in a season, but a groundout to second off Jayson Werth's bat ended Wisler's third scoreless frame. 18-pitch third, 49 total after three.
A 10-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth left Wisler at 59 pitches. Given a 1-0 lead to work with on a home run by his catcher in the bottom of the inning, Wisler returned to the mound and retired the Nationals in order in a 16-pitch frame. 75 total.
Trea Turner led the Nationals' sixth off with a solo home run to left on a first pitch fastball from Wisler for his first MLB home run, tying it up at 1-1. Three outs followed in a nine-pitch frame, 84 total.
Ian Desmond walked to start the seventh, but he was forced out at second on a Matt den Dekker grounder and Wilson Ramos grounded into an inning-ending DP in the next AB. Ten-pitch seventh for Wisler. 94 total.
Wisler came back out for the eighth with a 2-1 lead and gave up a single by pinch hitter Reed Johnson. That was it for Wisler...
• Matt Wisler's Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 99 P, 65 S, 6/5 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: The Nationals' start their three-game set in Turner Field 34-41 on the road overall this season and 3-3 vs the Braves in Atlanta, after sweeping all ten games between the NL East rivals in Washington, D.C. this season to give them a (counts on fingers) 13-3 advantage in the head-to-head series in 2015.
• Bryce Harper is one walk away from setting the franchise record for free passes in a season after he tied Ken Singleton, who walked 123 times with the Expos in 1973. He passed Singleton in his second trip to the plate.
Congrats to Bryce Harper on breaking my record for walks in a season. Having that record for 42 years made it worthwhile. #swingatstrikes— Ken Singleton (@29alltime) September 30, 2015
• In today's Bryce Harper-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, Harper has put up a gaudy .370/.509/.827 line with seven doubles, 10 HRs, 25 walks and 25 runs scored in 25 games so far in September, while totally lollygagging, dogging it and not hustling enough for Jonathan Papelbon or a number of anonymous current and former major league players.
• Bryce Harper started tonight's game ranked first in the NL In AVG (.336), OBP (.467), SLG (.658), runs scored (117), home runs (tied, 41), and Wins Above Replacement (9.7 fWAR).
• Tonight's start in Turner Field, is Tanner Roark's first start in Atlanta since September 2014, when he threw seven scoreless in the Nationals' NL East-clinching win over the Braves.
• According to the Nats' pregame notes, Tanner Roark is "one of Major League Baseball's top unheralded pitchers."
2. Turning Point(s): Tanner Roark was rolling through 3 ⅔ scoreless, but his first mistake of the game came on a 1-1 pitch to Braves' catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Roark left a curve up in the zone and the veteran backstop sent it out to right for a solo home run that make it 1-0 Atlanta in the series opener with Washington in Turner Field.
• Trea Turner got hold of a first-pitch fastball from Braves' starter Matt Wisler in the first at bat of the sixth, and the Nationals' 22-year-old infielder hit it out to left for his first major league home run, tying it up at 1-1 after five and a half in Turner Field.
• Pierzynski got Roark again in the seventh, taking a 93 mph full-count fastball out to center for a solo home run that put the Braves back on top, 2-1.
The home run was the 17th Roark has allowed in 104 ⅓ IP this season after he gave up 16 total in 198 ⅔ IP in 2014.
1. The Wrap-Up: Matt Grace recorded the final out of the seventh after taking over for Tanner Roark.
Edwin Jackson took over on the mound for Atlanta after Matt Wisler gave up a leadoff single in the top of the eighth and Trea Turner walked with one down to put two on in front of Bryce Harper, but Jackson got a 5-4-3 DP out of the potential NL MVP, ending the inning with the Braves still up a run, 2-1.
Blake Treinen took the mound in the bottom of the eighth and retired the Braves in order.
Braves' righty Arodys Vizcaino came on for the save in the ninth and gave up back-to-back singles by Jayson Werth and Clint Robinson, bringing Ian Desmond up with a runner in scoring position. Desmond tried to bunt both runners over, but dropped it right in front of home and didn't run, so he got doubled up at first after Werth was thrown out at third. 2-5-4 DP. #FFS. A swinging K from Matt den Dekker ended the game.
Nationals now 80-77