Coming off back-to-back wins, the first of which snapped a six-start winless streak, Tanner Roark struggled against the Colorado Rockies last time out before Friday’s outing in Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
Roark went five innings against Colorado in Washington, D.C., allowing five hits, four walks, and four earned runs in a 109-pitch effort.
“He was wild wide off the plate, and every time he would try to go away it would be off the plate,” Dusty Baker told reporters after the loss.
“His pitch count got high, I don’t know how many walks he had, he probably had four walks, which was quite a bit for him, so he just wasn’t sharp tonight.”
“Just one of those games,” Roark explained. “Can’t have your electric stuff every single outing, so I mean, it’s not like we got blown out today, so I’m not worried about it.”
In three starts out of the All-Star Break, the 30-year-old right-hander was (2-1) with a 3.00 ERA, eight walks (4.00 BB/9), 24 Ks (12.00 K/9) and a .176/.263/.294 line against over 18 innings heading into this afternoon’s series opener against the Cubs.
Roark worked around a leadoff single in the first, and leadoff walk in the second for two scoreless as the Nationals jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the strength of a Daniel Murphy home run.
Jon Jay walked and Kris Bryant singled with one out in the third, but Roark got a 5-4-3 DP out of Anthony Rizzo to end a 21-pitch frame that pushed him up to 49 total, and he worked around a two-out walk in a 21-pitch fourth that left him at 70 pitches after four scoreless frames.
Roark’s 15-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth pushed him up to 85 pitches, and he worked around a two-out single in a 12-pitch sixth that left him at 97 pitches, but his bid for a shutout ended in the Cubs’ seventh, when Kyle Schwarber doubled on a first-pitch curve and scored one out later a two-run home run by Javier Baez, who crushed a hanging slider to make it 3-2 Nationals after Murphy had homered for the second time in the game.
That was it for Roark...
• Tanner Roark’s Line: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 103 P, 67 S, 9/3 GO/FO.
“Tanner threw an excellent game except for that one pitch he hung to Javy,” Baker told reporters after the 4-2 win, “... and then it was time to get him out of there and turn it over to our newly-revamped bullpen.”
Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, and Sean Doolittle combined for three scoreless as the Nationals took the first of three in Wrigley.
“You feel very comfortable putting those guys in the game because you know they’ve been in that situation many times and they feel very comfortable in those situations,” Baker added after his new bullpen weapons locked down the win.
Baker was asked if that’s the way he plans to line things up in the bullpen going forward.
“Not necessarily in that order,” he said, “but all three of those guys, like I said, they’ve been at the back end of bullpens and they know what to do and they’re pretty good both against right and left which makes it nice. We’ll just have to see as we go along.”
Before he got to the bullpen, however, Baker got another solid start out of Roark, who has started to turn things around after a rough start to the 2017 campaign.
“He had a very good curveball,” Baker said. “He took something off it, which makes it hard to judge the speed and stay on it, and he spotted his fastball well, and so he was dealing, we were watching him particularly in that seventh because he had 100 pitches, but that’s nothing for Tanner because he’s a workhorse, so just thought it was time for us to turn it over to the bullpen because he had done his job.”