Before the start of Game 2 of the NLDS, Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker was asked if he had any concerns about Tanner Roark being too strong, or jacked as the reporter who asked put it.
Would he throw through his sink since Roark was going on seven days’ rest?
“It's kind of natural for him to be jacked,” Baker said, “but, no, I don't worry about Tanner at all.
“I think that extra day's rest might have helped him. Had it been early in the season, he might have been too strong, but this time of the year, you know, if anything, guys are too weak because he's thrown a lot of innings. This is the first time he's ever thrown this many.”
Roark topped 200 innings for the first time, finishing the season with 210 total innings pitched on the year over 34 games (33 starts), posting a career-high 16 wins (16-10), a 2.83 ERA, a 3.79 FIP, 73 walks (3.13 BB/9) and 172 Ks (7.37 K/9), while holding opposing hitters to a .227/.309/.330 line on the year.
“No, I'm not worried about Tanner,” Baker reiterated. “Not only does Tanner throw a sinker, he throws sliders. Tanner is the best that we have today and, you know, he's been our second best behind [Max Scherzer].”
Before Roark made his first postseason start, after working in relief in the postseason in 2010, Baker talked to reporters about the journey the righty took over the last two seasons leading up to the outing.
“I really don't know everything that Tanner's been through,” he explained. “I mean, you guys probably know that better than I.
“All I know is when I talked to him initially, when I took the job, trying to find out about each player, each person, their aspirations and where they feel most comfortable, and I asked him, ‘Are you a starter or a reliever, which one would you rather do?’
“And he told me he wanted to start.”
Roark won 15 games in 31 starts in his first full season in 2014, posting a 2.85 ERA and a 3.47 FIP, but roster additions that winter pushed him to the pen and he never found a role as a reliever.
“I said, Okay, I'm going to give you every opportunity to start,” Baker continued.
“And I couldn't understand a guy who wins 15 games his rookie year and the next year he's in the pen, but I didn't know that that was the same year that they had — I guess [Doug] Fister and [Max] Scherzer — which is the reason he went to the pen.
“This guy, he's a horse. He's a warrior. We feel very comfortable with him on the mound.
“We know that he's going to fight you every turn and every inning of the game.”
Roark was asked before his Game 2 start about setting a career high in wins, which he said was more of a team accomplishment, happy as he was to reach that mark. He also credited Baker with providing support.
“It feels good,” he said. “16 is a great total, that I guess... is... better than 15. But I wouldn't obviously have 16 wins without the other guys in the clubhouse and the locker room and Dusty giving me a lot of chances to stay in the game when I had a high pitch count or with guys on and one out and stuff like that.
“He trusted me and that built confidence in myself, you know, to go out there and keep pitching.”
Roark’s goal heading into the NLDS outing against Los Angeles was to do the same thing he did during each of his regular season starts.
“Just to go out there and do the stuff that I know I can do,” he said.
“You know, pitch with confidence and go as long as I can in the game and literally leave everything out there on the field.”
Roark gave up a home run in the second at bat of Game 2, on a 3-0 fastball to Corey Seager that was up in the zone outside, and another run in the third on an RBI single to right by Josh Reddick.
It stayed 2-0 in LA’s favor until Jose Lobaton hit a two-out, three-run home run to left in the bottom of the fourth inning to put the Nationals on top, 3-2.
Baker sent his starter back out for the fifth, but lifted Roark after he gave up leadoff and one-out singles.
Both runners were stranded, however, so the two runs he allowed while he was on the mound were the only two he was charged with.
Washington went on to a 5-2 win, evening up the series with the Dodgers after two games.
Dave Roberts, the Dodgers’ skipper, said his team missed opportunities to build up the lead when Roark was still on the mound.
“We had Roark on the ropes and I think it was through five innings, we left 11 guys on base,” Roberts said.
“We stressed him, and we had an opportunity to really put him away early.”
In his last outing of the season, Roark did what he could to help the Nationals get the win. He received no decision. He didn’t get another opportunity to pitch in the NLDS.