Tanner Roark topped 100 pitches in four straight starts after throwing 97 in his first outing of 2017.
Last time out before Sunday’s start in Philadelphia, however, he set a career high with 125 pitches over six innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks in what ended up a 6-3 loss.
“We didn’t like taking Tanner up that high in pitches,” Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker said after that game, but the bullpen was in bad shape, so he leaned on his starter.
Roark said he appreciated the show of confidence from his manager, who let him go back out for the sixth at 100 pitches and finish the frame even after he issued a one-out walk.
“I knew it was pretty high when I came out in the fifth, but I didn’t know I threw 125 [pitches], but felt good, still feel good,” Roark said.
“Body felt great. I’m very happy that Dusty let me go in there and finishing the inning.”
“I wanted to get that last guy,” Roark continued, “and it builds confidence in me and I’m glad he has the confidence in me to finish the inning.”
Baker told reporters this week that he would likely “back [Roark] back this start”, in his second outing against the Phillies this season.
Roark held the Nationals’ divisional rivals to two runs on four hits in seven innings in a loss in D.C. last month.
Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, Roark went six strong, throwing 100 pitches total and giving up just two hits and two unearned runs.
He left the game with a 5-2 lead, but ended up receiving no decision when Matt Albers gave up a game-tying, three-run home run in the eighth.
“Tanner was outstanding,” Baker said after what ended up a 6-5 loss in extra innings.
“Especially after we had to go get him because we didn’t want him to go any more. We had him slated for him to 90-100 pitches because of how many pitches he went in his last start. And so Tanner was good, I’m glad we added on those runs. Hate to blow a potential victory, but when we lose, we lose as a unit.”
After Roark’s final inning of work, the Nationals added two runs to their lead, going up 5-2 after six and a half.
Matt Grace tossed a scoreless seventh, but he came back out in the eighth and gave up back-to-back one-out singles.
Grace recorded two outs in the seventh, but Baker went to Matt Albers against pinch hitter Aaron Altherr, who hit a hanging, first-pitch slider out to left-center for a game-tying three-run home run.
Albers put two on with no one out in the ninth, before Enny Romero came on and worked his way out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam to keep it tied, but the Phillies rallied with Blake Treinen on the mound in the tenth, with a check-swing double, intentional walk and base-loading bunt single setting them up for the walk-off winner.
Baker addressed the Nationals’ bullpen’s continuing issues after the loss in Citizens Bank Park.
“It’s been difficult,” he said. “It’s been difficult since the beginning, but, our bullpen, you know, Matt Albers tonight, that was the first mistake he’s made.
“Spring Training he had a 0.00 ERA and the first mistake he’s made on a slider during the season.
“That was just a mistake that [Altherr] didn’t miss, and he had to hit it a ton to get it out of the ballpark, because there was a crosswind going the other way.”
And how about Treinen?
Baker was asked how the right-hander is dealing with the continuing struggles this season and whether or not he’s worried about how it’s affecting his reliever?
“Hey, man, what choice you got?” he asked rhetorically.
“You either deal with it and keep persevering or else you quit, and he’s not going to quit.
“That tenth was started with a check-swing double down the third base line, there’s not a whole bunch you can do about that, and then the walk, perfectly-executed bunt, we didn’t get an out and so you have to — the life of a reliever is you have to forget yesterday. You really have no choice. We know he’s better than that, he’s been getting some tough breaks, he’s been making some of his own breaks tough with walks, but they played a good game and they took the game from us.”