Tanner Roark bounced back from a less-than-impressive outing in the home opener with seven scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves in start No. 2 of 2016.
Last time out, however, we went up against the Marlins for the second time in three starts and got knocked around a bit in a 25-pitch first in which he gave up three runs.
He settled in after that, but Roark did end up allowing seven hits and five runs, four earned, in six innings on the mound in what ended up a 6-1 loss.
He dropped to (1-2) on the year after three starts with a 3.71 ERA, a 4.33 FIP, eight walks (4.24 BB/9), nine Ks (4.76 K/9) and a .290/.377/.353 line against after 17 innings.
So what adjustments did he make after struggling early against Miami?
"I was still just executing pitches for the most part," Roark said. "Keeping the ball down, keeping them off-balance."
"They're a good-hitting ballclub from top-to-bottom," he explained, "so you've just got to execute your pitches and keep them uncomfortable up there at the plate, that's the main thing."
Roark's start this afternoon was the first of his career against the Minnesota Twins.
He had everything working early as he struck out 12 of the first 19 batters he faced, setting a career high in Ks after recording back-to-back strikeouts for the first two outs of the fifth.
Though he was up to 96 pitches after five innings, he came back out for the sixth and retired the side in order on 12 pitches, adding two more Ks for 14 total in six innings.
He told reporters after the game, that there was no talk about him coming out at that point either.
Roark said there was no talk w/ coaches before 7th: 'Mike’s always said you’re out of the game when we tell you you’re out of the game.'— Chase Hughes (@chasehughesCSN) April 23, 2016
Roark returned to the mound in the seventh at 108 pitches and threw a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 frame, finishing the outing with 15 Ks on 121 pitches.
"We were a bit nervous," Dusty Baker admitted in discussing Roark's pitch count after what ended up a 2-0 Nationals' win.
"I think he had 70-something in the fifth and then he had a couple long at bats, guys fouling off pitches... but I talked to [Pitching Coach] Mike [Maddux] about it and he said, 'Hey man, he's still good.' Talked to [catcher Wilson] Ramos about it and usually the catcher has a good idea if he still has his stuff and we'll try not to take him that many pitches too many more times, but today was a special day for him."
That it was. Roark set a career high in Ks, with the 15 total six more than he'd recorded in 17 innings pitched this season before this afternoon's outing.
Roark said arm & body still felt good in 7th at 108 pitches. Grateful that Dusty & Maddux let him continue. "It’s my game & I wanted it."— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) April 23, 2016
What was working for the right-hander today?
"He had good control and he had his sinker working and he had his comeback inside fastball working," Baker said.
"He was really determined. Big time. And Ramos directed him through the ballgame. Get those two runs early and that made him even more determined. He even shaved his beard off, so that had something to do with it probably."
After his sort-of-lost season in the bullpen, Roark appears to be determined to make an impact in his return to the Nats' starting rotation.
"He's seized the opportunity," Baker said.
"That's what he wanted and that's what he got. We gave him the ball and he's rewarding us and himself -- with innings, and he threw probably more pitches than we wanted him to, but he didn't have any real stressful innings, so to speak, and any time you're striking out people you're throwing at least three pitches per batter.
"That was an outstanding performance. We could tell he was getting tired, but he's extremely strong and he reached back and he got some more when he needed it."
Asked for the last time he felt so sharp with all of four of his pitches in a start, Roark: "I don't think I ever have."— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) April 23, 2016