Tanner Roark is winless in his last five starts at (0-4), with Washington 0-5 in those outings, over which the 30-year-old starter has put up a 9.53 ERA (24 ER in 22 2⁄3 IP), with a .382/.453/.578 line against.
Roark was scheduled to take the mound against the New York Mets on Wednesday night, in the series finale of the three-game set in the nation’s capital.
He was coming off a rough three-inning start in St. Louis, MO’s Busch Stadium which saw him give up four hits, a career-high five walks, and three earned runs.
Roark’s planned start against the Mets was postponed due to inclement weather, and the Nationals announced that they would keep the rest of their rotation on schedule and skip his turn.
It wasn’t too much of a surprise considering the recent results, and both Roark and the Nationals have insisted there is nothing physically wrong with the righty.
“I’m fine,” Roark said, according to MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “Just mechanically, I feel fine, everything feels good. But just like I said, falling behind guys is never, ever good. Five walks, giving free passes.”
“His velocity is still good,” Baker said.
“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.”
Roark threw 85 pitches in three innings before Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker decided to go to the bullpen in the series opener with the Cards last Friday.
“I would say just falling behind every single hitter was the source of everything,” Roark told reporters, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo.
“Five walks, it’s never good, behind every hitter, not pumping strike one to get them on the defensive is a big thing. First-pitch strikes are huge.”
“His slider wasn’t sliding,” Dusty Baker said, noting that the walks, in particular, stood out.
“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 added, “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.”
In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo talked about Roark’s issues, what’s not working for the right-hander this season, and what he needs to improve.
“He’s spraying his fastball,” Rizzo said. “He’s not spotting his stuff like he has in the past and the big leaguers make you pay for it.
“I’ve got all the confidence in the world in this guy, I’d take him on my club any day of the week, because he leaves it on the mound and gives you 100%.”
Opposing hitters had a .253 AVG, and a .362 SLG against Roark’s two-seamer in 2016, but so far this season, that’s up to a .304 AVG and a .409 SLG.
His slider? From a .214 BAA, and a .291 SLG, to .267 and .450. His curveball isn’t far off, with a .221 AVG and .310 SLG last season and .237 AVG and .322 SLG so far in 2017, but his changeup is getting hit, hard.
Opposing hitters posted a .155 AVG and a .262 SLG against the offspeed pitch during Roark’s first season together with Baker, but they have a .321 AVG and .623 SLG on it this season.
Baker told reporters early last month, about a conversation he had with Roark when he took over on the bench in Washington and reached out to his new players.
“When I took this job, I told him I didn’t understand why he won 15 [in 2014] and the next year he wasn’t starting,” Baker said, “but I didn’t know that they had signed Max [Scherzer] that year, and I told him, I said, ‘Hey what would you rather do?’
“‘Would you rather relieve or start?’ and he said he’d rather start and I said, ‘Tell the world that and we’re going to give you every opportunity to start.’”
Will the extra rest give Roark time to straighten things out?
Will more time to think about his last outing be a benefit, or would it have been better for the right-hander to get right back on the hill?
Rizzo told The Sports Junkies he was confident that Roark will get right.
“He’s going to turn it around,” Rizzo said. “I know he is. His arm is healthy, his velocity is good, his spin rate is there, he just needs to get back to that two-seamer that he can run away from the lefties and front-hip them, and get that inside corner, and that ball is just traveling farther on the plate right now and getting to the hitters’ barrels.
“That’s the fine line, that’s how fine the line is in the big leagues from performing well to not performing well at all. Tanner is one of my horses, I love the guy and I’m going to ride him until he says that he’s not feeling well, or he just has to turn it around.”