WASHINGTON, D.C.: In spite of the fact that he threw 115 pitches total in just 5 2⁄3 innings against the Astros in Houston’s Minute Maid Park last time out, Tanner Roark was sharp in that start. Roark walked one batter, struck out seven, gave up six hits, and three runs, two earned, in a 4-3 game in which he earned his 10th win of the season.
“Stuff-wise, he made the pitches when he needed them, and if it wasn’t for the two-out hits,” Dusty Baker said, “which are hard to get and hard to come by, he wouldn’t have given up anything.”
“He had a very good breaking ball tonight,” Baker added, “... a really good breaking ball against some tough hitters, and we took him as far as we thought we could take him.”
“[Curve] felt really good,” Roark told reporters in Houston. “Just threw it in any count possible and it was really working tonight.”
Roark retired the last ten Astros’ batters he faced before he was lifted.
“He found his breaking ball and he found the proper speed on the breaking ball,” Baker said, “... and he was locating his fastball, and like I said, those guys, they’ve got a tough lineup, even though they were missing some guys.”
Roark said he knew he was facing one of the top offensive teams in the majors, but he just had to trust his stuff and not worry about the scouting reports.
“You got to stay within yourself, pitch the way you know how you can pitch,” he said.
“The scouting report, it’s there, but ultimately you’ve got to use your stuff that you’re confident in and keep them guessing, keep them off-balance, keep the uncomfortable at the plate.”
Sunday night in the nation’s capital, against a less-imposing New York Mets’ lineup, Roark struck out five of the first seven batters he faced in two scoreless innings, and retired nine of the first 11 batters, but he was up to 60 pitches total after a 22-pitch third.
Roark struck out the side in a 19-pitch fourth, picking up his sixth, seventh, and eighth Ks in his fourth scoreless frame, and he was up to 12 of 14 batters set down.
Roark took the mound in the fifth with a 2-0 lead courtesy of an RBI single by Anthony Rendon and an RBI sac fly by Adam Lind, and collected his ninth K in an eight-pitch, 1-2-3 frame that left him at 87 pitches overall.
Jose Reyes sent a 2-2 fastball through the right side for a one-out single in the sixth, and Juan Lagares lined a 1-0 slider from Roark into the right-center gap to drive in a run and cut the Nationals’ lead in half, 2-1, and Brandon Nimmo took a 1-0 fastball to center for a two-run blast in the next at bat, 3-2 NY. Roark’s 23-pitch sixth left him at 110 pitches and ended his night.
Roark was still the pitcher of record, however, when the Nationals took a 4-3 lead in the home-half of the sixth.
Tanner Roark’s Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 Ks, 1 HR, 110 P, 75 S, 6/2 GO/FO.
“Tanner threw great,” Baker said after the Nationals held onto that lead and took a 5-4 decision from the Mets.
Baker did, however, note that Roark, “threw a lot of pitches early,” which led to his start ending after the sixth, but he was sharp again, and the Nats’ skipper said his breaking ball was the key again.
“His breaking ball is getting back to form, which is setting up his fastball. He had good command on his fastball, and if it hadn’t have been for that home run by Nimmo, he was throwing the ball great, and I’m just glad that we came back and got the victory for Tanner before he left then held onto it.”
With the win, Roark improved to (W, 11-8) on the season, with a 4.63 ERA, 4.21 FIP, 55 walks (3.31 BB/9), and 131 Ks (7.88 K/9) in 25 starts and 149 2⁄3 innings.