It was supposed to be Stephen Strasburg against Matt Wisler in the third of a four-game series between the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night. But with Strasburg feeling under the weather, the Nats sent Tanner Roark to the hill instead.
Roark gave the Nats seven scoreless innings, Stephen Drew and Jayson Werth homered, and the Nats cruised to a 3-0 win over the winless Braves before a scattered crowd at Nationals Park.
Both pitchers cruised through the first three innings, but Wisler ran into trouble in the fourth. Stephen Drew, who made his second career start at third base, drilled a 93 mph fastball into the bleachers about the right-center scoreboard for his first home as a National.
With one out, Daniel Murphy drew a walk, then struggling Jayson Werth clobbered the first pitch he saw to the center field stands for his first to give the Nats (6-1) a 3-0 lead. It was the 199th homer of his career.
That's all Roark needed. He went seven full, allowing just four hits and three walks with four strikeouts. Of his 100 pitches, 60 were strikes. His most impressive stretch was in the sixth, getting Kelly Johnson looking on a tailing fastball to the lefty and a nasty slider to A.J. Pierzynski to end the inning.
"(Roark) came through, big time," manager Dusty Baker said. "Tanner gave us seven innings and got our bullpen back in order and ready to roll."
Oliver Perez had an easy 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts and Jonathan Papelbon closed it out for his fifth save.
Baker finally got the rotation lined up the way he wanted it, with Gio Gonzalez slotted between Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. But Strasburg has been nursing an illness all week and was unable to answer the call for Wednesday's start.
"He was really sick yesterday and so he feels better today than he did yesterday," Baker said. "And actually I heard him like really hocking two days ago, looked around the corner and it was him and I was like, 'Oh, no.' And then was hoping he was going to feel better yesterday. It was a little better and then he was a little better today."
So, who starts the finale' on Thursday? "We'd like to think that Stras will be ready tomorrow," Baker explained, "and if he's not then we'll come up with another solution."
W: Tanner Roark (1-1) L: Matt Wisler (0-1) SV: Jonathan Papelbon (5) HR: Drew (1), Werth (1) E: None.
NEXT GAME: Thursday at 4:05 p.m. against the Braves. Undecided hosts Julio Teheran (0-1, 5.40).
Clubbing the 99th home run of his young career on Thursday afternoon, Nationals OF Bryce Harper is now just one longball away from 100. When he reaches the 100-homer mark, Harper will join Ryan Zimmerman (200) and Ian Desmond (110) as the only players in WSH history (2005-pres.) to eclipse that milestone.
Through the season’s first six games, Murphy has reached base safely in 17 of his 28 plate appearances with 11 hits (2B, 3B, 2 HR), seven RBI and sixwalks...He has hit safely in six of the seven games, five being multi-hit efforts (T1st in the NL).
Washington leads the National League and is tied for second in MLB with six stolen bases.
The 2016 Nats are the first team to start a season 6-1 since baseball returned to the District in 2005.
The last D.C.-based team to start the season 5-1 (or better) were the 1951 Washington Senators. The 1913 Washington Senators also started the season 5-1.
Bryce Harper’s two-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning on Tuesday broke a scoreless tie and gave the Nationals a 2-0 lead. Prior to that at bat, Harper had five plate appearances with runners in scoring position this season and was walked in each of those plate appearances, with two intentional.
With that double, Harper has reached base safely in all six games this season, posting a .300/.480/.750 slash line. He has walked seven times, second-most in the NL.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Nats' 13-game streak is the longest home winning streak over one opponent in Nationals history and the second-longest in Nationals/Expos history (14 games, 5/04/1993-5/24/1995, San Diego Padres).
THIS DATE IN NATS HISTORY: In 2012: Xavier Nady hit a game-tying pinch homer in the eighth inning and Jayson Werth’s one-out, bases-loaded single up the middle rendered a Nationals’ 2-1 win in 13 innings over the Reds.