Tanner Roark gave up five of nine hits, and five of six runs, in the first inning of his start against the Cincinnati Reds last weekend in the nation’s capital.
He gave up another run in the second, completing two frames on 55 pitches, then held the Reds scoreless over the next four of his six total innings on the mound, working around three hits over that stretch, and throwing just 61 pitches the rest of the way.
Dusty Baker, asked about Roark’s struggles to put hitters away when he got to two strikes, said it was because the 30-year-old right-hander didn’t have his, “... pinpoint control, 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,” Baker said, “but more for him, because he knows how close he is to getting himself together, especially when you have two strikes.”
“I’ll build off this one and keep chugging along,” Roark told reporters after the start, which left (1-4) in five outings in June, with an 8.23 ERA, nine walks (2.96 BB/9), 20 Ks (6.58 K/9), and a .342/.391/.556 line against over 27 1⁄3 innings pitched.
He’d also allowed six home runs over that stretch, after giving up six in 65 1⁄3 innings pitched in April/May.
Tonight in St. Louis, MO’s Busch Stadium, Roark issued five walks to the first twelve batters he faced, setting a new career high in free passes, and loaded the bases in front of Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina in the third before giving up a two-run single to center on a 3-2 slider.
Roark had a number of long at bats in which he once again struggled to put hitters away, and after the Cardinals scored three in what ended up a 34-pitch third, he was up to 85 pitches overall, and done for the night.
Tanner Roark’s Line: 3.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 2 Ks, 0 HR, 85 P, 46 S, 3/1 GO/FO.
His lack of command and the walks stood out, Baker said after what ended up an 8-1 loss in St. Louis.
“That’s what stands out,” Baker told reporters. “His slider wasn’t sliding. He couldn’t control it.
“Tonight he was either hanging it or throwing it in the dirt. And he just couldn’t command. He got out of trouble in the first — well every inning.”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Baker continued. “It’s just that we’ve got to find out what’s wrong, because he’s a lot better than this. We’ll find it.
“I’m sure it’s very frustrating for him, and it’s frustrating for us, and especially to see him throw so many pitches in such a short period of time.”
Baker was asked if he had any concerns about Roark’s health.
“Well, I asked that,” Baker said.
“Mike’s asked him that. His velocity is still good, it’s just his command is off. Like I said, he hasn’t been right in a while, so we’ll try to find out what the problem is and get to the bottom of it.”
Baker wasn’t clear about whether he was referring to Nationals’ Pitching Coach Mike Maddux or GM Mike Rizzo, but the Nats’ General Manager did answer a question about Roark’s struggles and health in an interview with 106.7 the FAN’s Sports Junkies two weeks back, when he said that he had talked to the right-hander, and Roark said he was healthy.
“As long as Tanner says that he’s healthy and he says he feels really, really good, I’m fine with it,” Rizzo said.
“We’ve got no issues with Tanner Roark. He’s going to be great like he always has been, and I feel good about him coming back in the second half and really finishing strong for us this season.”
In six June starts, Roark has now given up 31 runs, 28 earned, in 30 1⁄3 innings pitched (8.31 ERA).
On the season, he now has a 5.27 ERA, a 4.39 FIP, 36 walks (3.39 BB/9) and 78 Ks (7.34 K/9) in 95 2⁄3 IP.