Things weren’t going well for Tanner Roark early on Tuesday night in Houston, Texas, where Roark took on the Astros in the series opener in Minute Maid Park.
Two, two-out RBI singles hurt the Washington Nationals’ right-hander, with both Josh Reddick and Derek Fisher driving in runs in the first and second innings, respectively.
Reddick drove in another run in the third inning with a grounder back to the mound that bounced off Roark for an RBI infield single, 3-2 Astros, but the Nationals’ starter worked his way out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam to keep it a one-run game.
Matt Wieters put the Nationals on top with a two-run homer in the fourth, 4-3, and then Roark settled in with an impressive run to end his outing, retiring eight straight Astros’ hitters between the bottom of the third and end of the fifth, completing five innings on 105 pitches, and he came back out in the sixth to record two outs before he was done with a streak of ten-straight set down at 115 pitches overall on the night.
Tanner Roark’s Line: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 115 P, 75 S, 7/2 GO/FO.
“He found his breaking ball and he found the proper speed on the breaking ball, and he was locating his fastball,” Dusty Baker told reporters after Roark earned the win in the Nationals’ 4-3 victory.
“Stuff-wise, he made the pitches when he needed them,” Baker continued, “and if it wasn’t for the two-out hits, which are hard to get and hard to come by, he wouldn’t have given up anything.
“And so the thing about Tanner, he had a very good breaking ball tonight, a really good breaking ball against some tough hitters. We took him as far as we thought we could take him.”
Oliver Perez retired Carlos Beltran to end the sixth, came back out to retire one batter in the seventh, then handed the ball to Joe Blanton, who put two runners on and then stranded both.
“We turned it over to our bullpen because we wanted to turn Beltran around with Perez and then we brought in somebody else, and then somebody else, and so like I said, it doesn’t always work, but it worked tonight,” Baker said.
“Joe is throwing better. That’s why we’re putting him in more leverage situations, cause this is what we brought him here for and this is kind of what he’s used to. So it’s good to see his velocity back up, and he’s throwing the ball well.”
Things got interesting in the eighth, with Brandon Kintzler giving up back-to-back hits to the first two batters he faced before a sac bunt moved both runners up.
Baker put Beltran on, avoiding a tough matchup since first base was open, and the Astros’ slugger was 5 for 5 with two doubles and a home run vs Kintzler. Max Stassi stepped in with the bases loaded and grounded into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
“He certainly saved the game,” Baker said when asked about the save coming, as it often does, in the eighth.
“They had bases loaded and one out, and he threw up a double play ball which is what everybody in the dugout was hollering, they were like, ‘Hey, we need a double play,’ because if you struck him out, you’re still not out of trouble.
“So we needed a double play and turned a very, very near double play, I mean that was a close call at first base but that was right on time.”
Daniel Murphy struggled to get a low throw from Anthony Rendon out of his glove, but managed to make the throw to first to complete the double play.
Sean Doolittle took over in the ninth and wrapped things up with a quick, eight-pitch, six-strike, 1-2-3 ninth, earning his 15th save of the season and his 12th in 12 chances with the Nationals.
“Doo throws strikes,” Baker said. “He throws near-strikes that look like strikes and end up being balls. He has great command and good velocity. And so, boy that was a good game to win.”