Tanner Roark gave up eight hits, three walks and seven runs, all earned, in five innings of work against the Miami Marlins last weekend in the nation's capital.
The outing left the Washington Nationals' 29-year-old right-hander (0-3) in three starts vs the Fish in 2016, over which he'd put up an 8.40 ERA, eight walks, 10 Ks and a .353/.429/.500 line against in 15 innings.
Dusty Baker talked after that outing about Roark's struggles against the Nats' NL East rivals, though he didn't have any answers as to what the problem has been.
"I don't know," Baker told reporters.
"We're trying to figure that out too, because I hope that team's not becoming a nemesis to him, because everybody has a couple teams that they've had trouble with and Mike [Maddux] has gone back to the drawing board each time and trying to figure it out and they were hitting him pretty hard."
In his pregame press conference on Friday afternoon, Baker told reporters that he and Roark and his coaches spent the intervening days between starts against the Marlins looking for answers:
Baker and coaches hunted to see if the Marlins may have picked up something from Roark...tipping pitches, etc. Didn't find anything.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) May 20, 2016
Dusty says he's worried Barry bonds found something in Roark pitching that is helping Marlins. Can't explain why they hit tanner— Byron Kerr (@masnKerr) May 20, 2016
"We’re looking to see if they picked up something on him," Baker explained, as quoted by MASN's Byron Kerr. "I know they have [Marlins hitting coach] Barry Bonds over there. He was the best, he was the absolute best. Hank Aaron said Barry was the best at spotting stuff. Hope he didn’t spot anything on Tanner because we’ve been looking and looking.
"Sometimes it may not be anything. Sometimes teams are your nemesis. It’s up to us to figure it out."
In Roark's fourth start of the season against Miami this season, things were different.
After he hit the first batter he faced (purely coincidental?), he limited the Marlins to one run on six hits, one a home run by Marcell Ozuna, in 6 ⅔ innings, walking two and striking out seven in a 108-pitch effort.
So what was working this time out?
"He was aggressive," Baker said. "He was coming right at them and he was getting strike one for the most part.
"He was keeping them off-balance, threw some good sliders and some pretty good changeups, other than the changeup for the home run, which wasn't a bad pitch, it was just a good piece of hitting by Ozuna over there."
So did Roark think he was tipping his pitches?
"It was a thought," Roark acknowledged, "so I mixed it up a little bit within the game, the game within the game, so it was a little minor adjustment that I did and it worked."
What did they find when they looked into it?
"We looked at video and so we just made sure... I would do certain things on certain pitches, so I made an adjustment and it worked out."
A reporter noted that Roark appeared to be wiggling his glove a little before each pitch and he appeared to make some minor adjustments as he came set in his delivery, perhaps in an attempt to hide/disguise what grip he had before each pitch.
Did he worry that he might focus too much on the subterfuge and have it become a distraction?
"It can be," Roark said. "Cause you think you're focusing on more of the adjustment than making your pitch. But it felt fine. It felt good. It felt right, so I mean, that's the biggest part."
Whatever he did, it worked. Roark improved to (3-3) on the year with the win, and (1-3) against the Marlins.