In five second-half starts before this afternoon’s against the Los Angeles Angels in the nation’s capital, Tanner Roark was (3-1), posting a 2.97 ERA, 16 walks (4.75 BB/9), 32 Ks (9.49 K/9) and a .186/.287/.336 in 30 1⁄3 innings pitched.
Roark told reporters after his previous outing, a six-inning start against the Miami Marlins, that his velocity wasn’t there so he had to focus on his command.
“Just one of those nights where I didn’t have the velocity,” he explained, “so I had to hit my spots and locate. I found that out in the third inning, just not try to overthrow and hit my spots.”
Roark gave up four hits, five walks and two earned runs, receiving no decision in what ended up a 3-2 win over the Fish.
Against the Los Angeles Angels this afternoon, Roark looked sharp early, retiring six of the first seven batters he faced, and working around a two-out double in the second for two scoreless on 32 pitches.
A one-out walk to the opposing pitcher, Ricky Nolasco, gave the Angels their second baserunner of the game in the top of the third, but he was quickly erased on a ground ball back to the mound by Ben Revere that started an inning-ending 1-6-3 DP.
Roark worked around his second walk of the game in a 17-pitch fourth that pushed him up to 62 pitches, but a 1-0 fastball to Luis Valbuena in the fifth ended up going over the center field fence for a solo shot that cut the Nationals’ lead in half, 2-1.
Mike Trout singled with two down in the top of the sixth to keep the inning alive, and Kole Calhoun followed with a two-run blast to right on a 2-0 fastball that put LA up, 3-2. Calhoun’s 14th of 2017.
With some help from Michael A. Taylor, who made a diving catch in left-center, Roark wrapped up his outing with a scoreless, 1-2-3 seventh.
Tanner Roark’s Line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 2 HRs, 97 P, 60 S, 11/3 GO/FO.
“Trying to go down and away, two-seamer to — well, both of them,” Roark said of the two home run pitches, “... and just didn’t get down enough and it just stayed up in the zone.”
“He threw the ball great today,” Dusty Baker told reporters, “except for the two homers by left-hand hitters, and I’m sure that he’ll probably want those fastballs back on the location, but he threw the ball great, he had a good breaking ball.”
“Curveball was really working today,” Roark added. “I felt like all pitches were working well today.”
Unfortunately for Roark, and the Nationals, they struggled to get much of anything going against Angels’ right-hander Ricky Nolasco.
Nolasco gave up a two-run home run early, but not much else, holding the Nats to two runs on five hits in 5 2⁄3 innings before LA’s bullpen took over with 3 1⁄3 scoreless.
“We threatened a couple times early to pad the lead,” Baker said, “and Ricky Nolasco had a good breaking ball today, a real good breaking ball, that’s what he’s known for and he mixed in some fastballs and a changeup, but he had a real good breaking ball today.”
“Most of the time if you give up three runs — against our offense it’s not going to be enough,” Baker added.
“Our schedule so far has been grueling and then we have a super-hot day, and humidity is out there,” Roark said when asked about the offense struggling against the Angels.
“So it’s a long season, guys are out here grinding and working hard to stay healthy and get back at it, so it’s just one of those games where it turns out to be a pitchers’ duel.”