WASHINGTON, D.C.: Tanner Roark started his 2017 campaign (3-0) in five starts (3.64 ERA, .232/.301/.321 line against), then went (0-2) over his next four outings (6.23 ERA, .265/.358/.422), before he won three straight (3-0, 2.08 ERA, .235/.262/.333) heading into tonight’s start against the Texas Rangers, who selected the now-30-year-old right-hander in the 25th Round back in the 2008 Draft then traded him to Washington two years later.
Dusty Baker said before tonight’s series opener with the Texas Rangers in Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park, that he thought the difference in Roark’s recent outings was that he was just beginning to round into top shape after his preparation for the 2017 campaign was altered some by his participation in this past Spring’s World Baseball Classic.
“The difference is I think he was a little bit behind from the WBC, honestly,” Baker said.
“He had his strength and endurance was good, but his sharpness wasn’t. He had a lot of deep counts, he was only going 5-6 innings because his pitch count would get high.
“And so I think he’s just rounding into baseball shape, where he might have been a month ago.”
Roark took the mound looking for his fourth straight win in the series opener with the Rangers, and he worked around four hits for two scoreless on 32 pitches to start the series opener, but three straight singles in the third (by Elvis Andrus, Nomar Mazara, and Jonathan Lucroy) put Texas on top, 1-0 early.
An 0-1 slider to Lucroy in the fifth ended up in the left field seats for a two-run blast that came two outs after an error by Ryan Zimmerman put Shin-Soo Choo on to start the inning, 3-0.
Trea Turner’s error on a Joey Gallo grounder into the shift led to the Rangers’ fourth run of the game, when Roark issued a bases-loaded two-out walk to Nomar Mazara, 4-0.
Rougned Odor ended Roark’s night in the seventh when he hit a 2-0 changeup out to right-center for a solo shot a half-inning after the Nationals scored their first run, 5-1.
Tanner Roark’s Line: 6.0 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 2 HRs, 97 P, 62 S, 7/2 GO/FO.
Roark fought, but didn’t receive much support from a sluggish Nationals’ offense that looked very much like a team that just got back from a long West Coast trip and was running on adrenaline last night.
“He was battling,” Baker said when asked about Roark’s outing after what ended up a 5-2 loss, “but we didn’t get much going on offense against [Andrew] Cashner and then we were kind of flat earlier and usually that second day from the West Coast is a little tougher than most days and we didn’t play very well on defense, we gave them a couple runs and then they capitalized on them, on the errors that we made, that we usually don’t make those.”
Cashner went seven strong, giving up just one run on six hits to earn his third win of the season (W, 3-5). Baker said he was a different pitcher than last time the Nats saw him.
“Before he was just power, power, and more power,” Baker said, “... and he was 91 with his sinker, 92, and then he’s pump it up to 97, and so he was pitching tonight, better than we had seen him in the past. We hadn’t seen him in a while.”
Overall, Baker said, “... it wasn’t a very good day at the ballpark.”