Pitching in a light mist that seemed odd for Los Angeles, Tanner Roark took the mound on Tuesday night in Dodger Stadium against Japan in the second semi-final matchup of the 2017 World Baseball Classic and tossed four scoreless frames on 48 pitches in what ended up a 2-1 win for the United States.
With the win, the U.S. advanced to tomorrow night’s WBC Championship game with Puerto Rico.
Roark, the Washington Nationals’ 30-year-old right-hander, worked around a leadoff hit-by-pitch in a nine-pitch first, then erased a one-out single with a 5-4-3 DP in an eight-pitch second.
Japanese shortstop Hayato Sakamoto singled with one down in the bottom of the third, but he was stranded at second base two outs later as Roark completed a 16-pitch frame for three scoreless.
Yoshimoto Tsutsugoh walked with one down in the fourth, but was still standing on first base when Roark wrapped up a 15-pitch inning at 48 total for the night.
• Tanner Roark’s Line: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 48 P, 30 S, 6/0 GO/FO.
Roark was pitching on ten days rest after struggling in a 1 1⁄3-inning relief appearance against the Domincan Republic in his WBC debut back on March 11th.
He told reporters he stayed sharp for the outing by doing his work in the bullpen, and tried to stay mentally focused while he waited for the call from United States’ skipper Jim Leyland.
“He's gotten the short end of the stick a little bit so far, to be honest with you, the way things worked out,” Leyland acknowledged.
“But he deserves this start. There is no doubt in my mind about it. I feel great about it. He's been a trooper. He signed up for this event, and I'm pitching him. I feel very, very comfortable about it.”
Roark pitched to Japanese skipper Hiroki Kokubo’s scouting report over the course of his four innings of work on the mound.
“He pitches and lets the hitter ground out,” Kokubo said Monday. “So has very good control. He throws to the corners.”
Roark’s two-seamer was in fine form, with late break, and he induced six ground ball outs from the 15 batters he faced. He left the game with a 1-0 lead, but Japan tied it up at 1-1 when second baseman Ryosuke Kikuche homered to right off Nate Jones in the sixth.
The U.S. reclaimed the lead in the top of the eighth, however, when Brandon Crawford singled, took third on an Ian Kinsler double and scored on a groundout by Adam Jones when Japan’s third baseman, Nobuhiro Matsuda, bobbled the ball on the wet infield grass and had to settle for an out at first, 2-1.