Tanner Roark took the mound in Miami on Monday with a 2-0 lead courtesy of a two-run blast by Bryce Harper in the top of the first inning.
Roark erased a leadoff single to left by Dee Gordon with a double play on a Giancarlo Stanton grounder to short, and got a second weak grounder to short to end a 12-pitch first, then retired the Marlins in order in a 13-pitch second, touching 97 on one fastball to Justin Bour and sitting 95-96 with movement early in Marlins Park.
Following back-to-back losses in his previous two starts before Monday night’s, Roark talked to reporters, including MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, about identifying what was behind his recent issues.
The issue he noticed, Roark explained, had to do with, “... extending, getting closer to the plate, really,” as he told it.
“I think that’s my main issue. I looked at some video, and it just so happened to be that it was a little thing like that. And most of the time, baseball plays tricks on you, and that was the little thing.”
With an up-and-down campaign so far in 2017, and both GM Mike Rizzo and Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker mentioning his participation in the World Baseball Classic as a potential cause of his struggles in the first three months, Roark said he thought he had isolated the cause of his recent issues.
“I was obviously struggling to find some things earlier on in the year,” Roark said, “and all year, basically. But I feel like that’s the biggest thing, the extension.”
“Pitching is such a feel that you have to feel it,” Pitching Coach Mike Maddux told MASN’s Dan Kolko when asked about the problem Roark identified.
“You can sit there and watch video until you’re blind, so you have to feel it and when Tanner was able to put feel to what he saw in video, he was able to correct it. It was about extension, you know, getting down the hill, maybe not too far or too quick, but he was letting go of the ball too soon, so now it’s just hanging onto the ball a little bit longer, getting that finish and therefore getting the movement, and the movement that we’re accustomed to seeing him have.”
With the Nats up 6-0 in the third in the series opener in Miami, Roark gave up a leadoff single by Derek Dietrich and an RBI triple by JT Riddle, who lined a 94 mph 2-2 fastball to right-center, just out of reach of a diving Michael A. Taylor, 6-1.
Riddle scored one out later, on an RBI groundout by Dee Gordon, 6-2.
A two-out walk to Christian Yelich put two on with two out and pushed Roark up to 31 pitches in the third, and 56 overall, and a two-out walk to Marcell Ozuna loaded’em up on the Nationals’ right-hander’s 37th pitch of the frame and 62nd of the game.
Justin Bour stepped in next and crushed a 2-2 change. Roark’s 42nd pitch of the inning ended up sailing over the right field fence for a game-tying grand slam, 6-6. That was it for Roark.
Tanner Roark’s Line: 2.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 HR, 69 P, 41 S, 5/1 GO/FO.
“He lost command of the strike zone because he had a couple walks in there,” Dusty Baker told reporters after what ended up an 8-7 loss to the Marlins.
“Then when he did find the strike zone it was in the heart of the plate, and then he had Bour 0-2, and then threw a couple fastballs and then he hung a slider, or a changeup, I couldn’t tell exactly what it was, but it was offspeed and up.
“We were trying to stick with him as long as we could because we didn’t want to tear up our whole bullpen at that time, but we still had action on winning that game.”
Roark was rough on himself/honest in his assessment of his outing when he talked to reporters after the game.
“I’m pissed off,” Roark said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “You get a six-run lead and you give it up. That’s pathetic on my part.”
That’s not all he said:
Tanner: "I need to stop pitching like crap."— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) June 20, 2017
The full quote from Roark via the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes: “My arm felt good.... Just need to stop pitching like crap.”
On the season, Roark was left with a 4.88 ERA, a 4.33 FIP, 29 walks (3.01 BB/9) and 69 Ks (7.71 K/9) after he didn’t record any against Miami...