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Washington Nationals’ Tanner Roark back to basics in win over Braves in 2018 debut

Tanner Roark held the Atlanta Braves to one run on four hits over seven innings in an 8-1 win for the Washington Nationals.

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Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Tanner Roark’s 2018 Grapefruit League run ended with three less-than-stellar starts in which he gave up a total of 18 hits and 15 runs in 10 23 innings pitched. Nine of the hits and nine of the runs Roark gave up over that stretch came in his final outing of the Spring, a rough 3 23 inning start against the New York Mets in which he threw 81 pitches, 43 of them in his final inning of work.

It was not an ideal way to wrap up his preparation for the 2018 campaign. Roark said that he actually felt fine on the mound in that start, though he struggled out of the stretch.

“In my windup, everything was coming out clean and nice,” Roark told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

“I felt relaxed. Even when I came out of the game and now, I feel good. Even in that long inning, I felt good. It’s just out of my stretch, the ball was up a little bit. And that’s what I’ve got to work on, just that tiny little bit of getting out in front just a little bit more, and I’ll be good.”

Roark made one simulated start between that outing and tonight, throwing 91 pitches over six innings, so Nats’ skipper Dave Martinez said there were no limitations on the right-hand starter going into tonight’s game.

In his first regular season start of 2018 tonight, Roark picked up where he left off late in the in 2017 season (when he posted a 3.90 ERA, a 3.75 FIP, 28 walks (3.12 BB/9), 86 Ks (9.60 K/9), and a .222/.292/.397 line against over 80 23 IP in the second half, after struggling before the All-Star Break).

Roark took the mound in the first with a 2-0 lead, had a 5-0 lead after two, and tossed four scoreless on 38 pitches before giving up a run on an RBI single by the notorious Nats-killer Freddie Freeman in the home-half of the fourth.

Washington answered back in the top of the fifth, however, giving the starter a 6-1 lead to work with, and Roark kept it there even after a single and an error by Howie Kendrick on a fly to left-center field put runners on second and third with no one out in the bottom of the fifth.

After an 18-pitch sixth, in which he worked around a walk to Freeman, Roark came back out for the seventh at 86 pitches and retired the Braves in order in a seven-pitch frame.

Tanner Roark’s Line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 93 P, 62 S, 7/2 GO/FO.

Through four starts, Nationals’ starters have now allowed three earned runs in 25 13 IP (1.07 ERA).

Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters after what ended up an 8-1 win that he was excited about what he saw from Roark.

“Outstanding,” Martinez said. “Him and [Pedro Severino] worked really well together, which was really fun to watch. They really were on cue and [Roark] pitched unbelievable.”

Roark, who experimented with a simpler delivery this Spring told reporters tonight that he worked in the sim game last week, which Severino caught, to get back to his old wind-up, and saw positive results in his 2018 debut.

“We were talking about it, [Stephen] Strasburg was talking to me about it, Max [Scherzer] was talking to me about it, just getting back to feeling the way I usually feel,” Roark said, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr.

“Feeling good and feeling my windup just making sure everything’s smooth and slow and then go.

“Instead of my head moving too much and the previous one was trying to make it simpler but I think they helped me out with making it a lot simpler. As for the game, I felt great, everything was working, Sevy did a heck of a job behind the plate calling good pitches and the team put some runs on the board early and never looked back.”

Martinez was asked what he saw working for Roark.

“For me it was pounding the strike zone,” Martinez said. “And we talk about that a lot, you know, not falling behind, staying out of big innings, and he did that really well.”