Tanner Roark had a 6-0 lead to work with when he took the mound in the bottom of the third last week in Miami.
He didn’t make it out of that inning, however, and it was tied up at 6-6 by the time the Marlins’ half of the third ended.
It was the third straight rough outing for Washington’s 30-year-old right-hander, who was left with a 9.88 ERA (18 R, 15 ER) and a .413/.465/.651 line against in 13 2⁄3 IP over that stretch.
Going into the start against the Fish, Roark told reporters he thought a mechanical issue was causing his problems with, “... extending, getting closer to the plate, really,” with Nats’ pitching coach Mike Maddux adding that after reviewing footage, Roark figured out that, “... it was about extension... getting down the hill, maybe not too far or too quick, but he was letting go of the ball too soon.”
Whatever fixes they tried to apply didn’t work in Miami, and a clearly frustrated Roark beat himself up when he talked to reporters after the start.
“I’ve been messing with my mechanics all year,” he told reporters.
“I feel like, like I said last time, I wasn’t driving towards the plate, and now I feel like my arm is not catching up, so, I felt great, still feel great. Just pissed off. I mean, you get a six-run lead and you give it up, and that’s pathetic on my part. That’s bad.”
“I just need to stop pitching like crap,” Roark added.
“Got to keep going,” he said when asked about working through the issues.
“You’re going to get punched in the face, get knocked down, you’ve got to get back up though, and this one, this one hurt today, but it’s a long season and you’ve got to keep going.”
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo offered his own take on how Roark could fix his recent issues in an appearance on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last Wednesday.
“He’s just got to pound the strike zone like he always has,” Rizzo explained, “and just be consistent with his location, keep the ball down, get that two-seamer to run back on those left-handed hitters and to hit that outside corner against right-handed hitters.”
“The way he competes and gets after it, he’s a good self-evaluator and he knows what he needs to do and he minces no words when he has a poor performance.”
He got punched in the face again this afternoon, and got off to another rough start in the finale with the Cincinnati Reds.
Roark gave up a double to the right-center field gap on his second pitch he threw, with Billy Hamilton lining a double to right-center. Scooter Gennett hit a 94 mph 2-2 fastball to short left field in the next at bat, bringing Hamilton in for a 1-0 lead in the opening frame of the series finale with the Reds.
Gennett scored on a single to right by Joey Votto when Bryce Harper’s throw in from right to third base hit the runner and shot into foul territory, 2-0.
Votto scored on a force at second base, and a two-out, two-run double to right field by Tucker Barnhart on a 92 mph 2-2 two-seamer was just out of Bryce Harper’s reach, and it put the Reds up 5-0 in what ended up a 40-pitch first by Roark.
It was 6-0 Cincinnati after Gennett hit a 2-2 slider out to right field in the second.
Roark: 11 runs in last 1 2/3 IP.. 100% command Issues. He's made career by "throwing it in a tea cup." Right now he can't hit kitchen table.— Thomas Boswell (@ThomasBoswellWP) June 25, 2017
Roark settled in after the home run, and needed 36 pitches to get through innings 2-4 after the 40-pitch first, and he stranded two in a 22-pitch fifth that pushed him up to 98 total after five.
He came back out for one more inning, working around a one-out single in an 18-pitch frame that left him at 116 overall.
Tanner Roark’s Line: 6.0 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 116 P, 79 S, 4/4 GO/FO.
“In that first inning they hit some seeing eye balls that were just out of reach,” Dusty Baker said, after what ended up a 6-2 loss.
“Everything was just out of reach, or [an] infield hit. Bryce made a great effort on that ball and that’s the third out, and they come out of there with probably two.
“Then he settled down in the middle innings and found his control cause he didn’t have his real good control, but he had good enough [control] to get out of that inning had it not been [for] those seeing eye balls. There’s nothing you can do about those balls that find holes, but he threw the ball better today than the score indicated.”
“I’ll build off this one and keep chugging along,” Roark said, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr after the game.
Baker was asked if all the two-strike hits and the struggles putting batters away were indicative of any particular problems Roark was having.
“When you don’t have your pinpoint control,” Baker said, “and mainly his comeback fastball especially against the lefties on the inside and the slider the away, it’s frustrating for him and frustrating for us, but more for him, because he knows how close he is to getting his self together, especially when you have two strikes.
“The whole league, with two strikes — nobody hits better with two strikes, but they’re, like I said, they’re finding some holes.”
“Roark has pitched well against and he’s got good stuff,” Reds’ skipper Bryan Price told reporters after Cincinnati avoided getting swept. “He had the really good slider going today, fastball/changeup, had a nice mix, a curveball, and we were able to get a five-run inning, that was big. Barnhart kind of with the final touch there with the two-run double to add those two add-on runs, and then be able to do it again — for Gennett to hit the home run to make it six after two are important runs.”
“We had some action coming back,” Baker said. “We had some runners on base, we just couldn’t get the couple big hits that we needed.”