Tanner Roark gave up six runs early, and threw a total of 55 pitches in his first two innings of work, then settled in and went six against the Cincinnati Reds.
Roark found something late in what ended up a 6-2 loss, and spared Washington’s bullpen a real long afternoon.
“That was very important for us,” Dusty Baker told reporters after the game.
“Because you know we’ve got a tough series coming up here with the Cubs, we have like 14 more in a row and you can get upside down if I had to take him out in the second inning, and then that would have my bullpen upside down for a couple days, and so especially if the starter, god forbid, doesn’t go very far the next two days, and so that was real big of him to gut it out and to save my bullpen.”
After taking two of three from the Reds, Baker’s Nats take on the defending World Series champs, who are just a game above .500 after winning six of their last ten.
The veteran skipper assured reporters that the NL East-leading Nats, who improved to 20-15 at home this season over the weekend, would be ready for the challenge against the Cubbies after dropping five of seven to Chicago last season.
“I think we’ll get up for them,” Baker said. “Because we’re up almost every day, it just doesn’t appear the same.”
Joe Maddon’s Cubs aren’t quite the juggernaut they were in 2016, when they won 103 games in the regular season, but Baker’s not taking them lightly.
He was asked if he thought the Cubs might be suffering from a letdown after ending the North Side of Chicago’s 108-year championship drought last season.
Baker said there are plenty of reasons a World Series winner could struggle.
“I don’t think there’s a letdown,” Baker explained. “I think there’s a short winter.
“You’ve got a very short winter, you’ve got a very short winter on your pitching staff, because while everybody is resting in the month of October and in November now, you’re still playing.
“Then when you do win, it’s not usually until December until you feel like working out.
“If you take a month off or two weeks off, then you’re looking at December. And then you’ve got the rubber chicken circuit that everybody wants a piece of you, everybody wants to celebrate with you and you go all around, and next thing you know it’s time to go to Spring Training and you don’t really have that much time to regroup physically and mentally.
“I remember I asked Larry Doby a long time ago, when I was a kid, I said, ‘When do you start getting ready for baseball?’ And my thought was Spring Training, and he told me you start getting ready a couple weeks after the season is over, because there are times during the winter that you don’t feel like working out, but you do it, and there are times that you don’t feel like playing, but you do it, so it’s synonymous to preparing yourself for the grind of the marathon that’s ahead of you, so I think there’s a lot of factors.”
The Cubs know what it’s like now. The Nationals would likely welcome a World Series hangover in 2018.