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Nationals’ Tanner Roark starts season over with second-half-opening win over Reds...

“I just told him to start his season all over, so he’s 1-0 in the second half and hopefully he can build on that.” - Dusty Baker on Tanner Roark vs the Reds

MLB: Washington Nationals at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Strasburg took a line drive off his hip in final first-half outing, so the Nationals’ right-hander was lifted after just three innings of work in Washington, D.C. The positive to come out of that situation was that it gave Tanner Roark an opportunity to work on what’s been plaguing him this season in a relatively low-pressure situation since it was already a 6-0 game in the Atlanta Braves’ favor before he took the mound.

Roark, who ended up going five innings in relief, retired the first six batters he faced, gave up a run on two singles in his third inning of work, and a solo home run by Nick Markakis in his fourth, before a double and single in his fifth put the Braves up 8-0 in what ended up a 13-0 loss for the Nats.

As Dusty Baker explained afterwards, it wasn’t about the results for Roark as much as letting him get some work in as he tries to sort things out.

“Yeah, that’s why we left him out there, because the score the way it was, the positive is that it was a great work day for Tanner,” Baker said.

“He only gave up one hard-hit ball, and that was the solo home run, so he had good location, good tempo, and so hopefully we can build off of that for the second half.”

Roark’s first half, which was decidedly up and down from the start, ended with a streak of four losses in five outings (before the relief appearance), over which he gave up 39 hits (five home runs), 13 walks (vs 18 Ks), and 27 runs (24 earned) over 22 13 innings pitched (9.53 ERA), with opposing hitters putting up a .382/.453/.578 line against him over that stretch.

Blame the right-hander’s participation, or perhaps it’s just a bad run, or mechanical issues, but whatever it is, the Nationals and Roark need to get it sorted out.

Roark’s second half started with a 25-pitch first against the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday in Great American Ball Park, in which he worked around a one-out single and walk, and he retired the Reds in order in an 11-pitch second before running into trouble in the third, though it wasn’t all his fault.

Homer Bailey K’d swinging on a low 0-2 curve and hustled down to first as if the ball hit the dirt as the Nationals tossed it around the infield.

Somehow, the umpires did not see Jose Lobaton make the catch, and after the Reds loaded the bases, two runs (including Bailey) scored to cut the Nationals’ lead in half, 4-2.

Washington Nationals v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

After a quick, five-pitch fourth, Roark took the mound with a 9-2 lead in the fifth after the Nationals exploded for five runs in the top of the inning, but a one-out walk, and a two-out error, put runners on the corners, and a line drive single to left field by Scooter Gennett drove in the Reds’ third run, 9-3.

Roark’s outing ended with a 16-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth that pushed him up to 101 pitches overall.

Tanner Roark’s Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 101 P, 65 S, 8/4 GO/FO.

“Tanner, he threw the ball great,” Baker told reporters after what ended up a 14-4 win over the Reds.

“We made a couple errors that turned into runs,” he said, “and one of them was a walk that turned into a run, but other than that Tanner threw the ball outstanding.”

It didn’t hurt that Roark received plenty of run support.

“You go out there and you pitch with confidence and you go right at ‘em,” Roark said, as quoted by MASN’s Pete Kerzel.

“You attack the hitters. Just throw strikes and know you have seven other guys behind me who can make plays. Always got to trust your stuff.”

“I think that relief stint helped him,” Baker added. “He came in behind [against Atlanta] and he threw five or six innings, and he threw the ball excellent that day and so he can build off of that and I just told him to start his season all over, so he’s 1-0 in the second half and hopefully he can build on that.”