Tanner Roark’s seven-inning outing in Milwaukee’s Miller Park on September 1st, which saw him give up one run on five hits, left him with a 3.05 ERA and a .197/.271/.361 line against in 56 second-half innings pitched. Dusty Baker told reporters after the start vs the Brewers, that after a series of solid turns in the rotation from the 30-year-old right hand starter, it was good to have Roark back to being himself after a rough first half of the 2017 campaign.
“He’s throwing the ball well,” Baker said. “He’s the Tanner that we know now, and so he keeps throwing like that he’s going to win a lot of ballgames for us down the stretch.”
Coming off a first half which saw him put up a 5.08 ERA and .278/.343/.417 line against in 100 2⁄3 innings, it’s definitely been a significant change.
“It was a mental,” Roark told MASN’s Johnny Holliday and Ray Knight in a post game chat after he earned his 12th win of the season in what ended up a 4-3 game in the Nationals’ favor.
“Just not trusting myself and not trusting my stuff and just [getting] too mental. And just got to trust that’s it’s going to be there and that’s what I’ve been working on the second half and just going out there and be confident in myself and my stuff and go right and attack them.”
Tonight in the nation’s capital, Roark was facing the Philadelphia Phillies for the fourth time in 2017, after posting a 3.06 ERA and a .194/.265/.226 line against in 17 2⁄3 IP over the first three starts, all of which took place back in the first six weeks of the season.
Jorge Alfaro’s second home run of the season, to lead off the third, was just the third home run hit off Roark’s curve this season, 1-1. Opposing hitters had just a .223 AVG and a .330 SLG on the pitch before tonight’s game.
Tommy Joseph hit a 2-0 fastball belt-high inside out to left, just inside the pole, for a towering solo home run in the fourth that made it 2-1 Phillies, and they added to the lead with an RBI single by Freddy Galvis in the top of the fifth, 3-1.
Roark stranded two runners in what ended up a 26-pitch frame that pushed him up to 91 pitches, then came back out with a quick, nine-pitch sixth that left him at 100.
• Tanner Roark’s Line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 100 P, 64 S, 4/3 GO/FO.
Roark threw 64 of 100 fastballs on the night, up slightly from the 56.8% fastballs he’s averaged this season. It was a mix of two and four-seam fastballs. Roark’s two-seamer, in particular, has been effective for him over his recent run of success.
As for the slightly higher than usual fastball usage?
“The reason why I threw a lot of fastballs, I was behind in the count a lot,” Roark joked with the MASN hosts, “so I had to try to get back into the count.”
“I’ve been feeling pretty good with my two-seamer as of late, in the second-half, and having it move a little more and trusting it a little more, and that’s the biggest part.”
He also got five swinging strikes with the 15 changeups he threw to Phillies’ hitters, 13 of them for strikes, and seven for strikes not put in play.
“The changeup was I think my best pitch tonight,” Roark said, “me and [Matt] Wieters utilized it a lot and got out of some big jams.”
Baker talked in his post game comments about the importance of getting Roark and Wieters some more time together.
Before tonight, Wieters had caught 14 of Roark’s start vs 13 with Jose Lobaton. Baker said he and Wieters discussed it and wanted to make sure to get them together.
“Him and Wieters, Wieters hadn’t caught Tanner much because usually Tanner seems to fall on a day game,” Baker explained, “and I usually catch Lobaton, but Loby wasn’t available, but I already had Wieters slated to catch him, because Wieters and I sit down and we kind of map out and navigate the days he’s going to play. Two days ago I wasn’t even that aware of it, he told me he hadn’t hardly caught Tanner of all the guys in our starting rotation, so that was big for him and Tanner to get some work in today.”
Roark now has a 4.55 ERA in 87 IP with Wieters behind the plate vs his 4.40 ERA in 75 2⁄3 IP working with Lobaton.
Overall on the season, the Nationals’ starter is (12-9) after the win over the Phillies, with a 4.48 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 57 walks (3.15 BB/9) and 147 Ks (8.13 K/9) in 162 2⁄3 IP.