Tanner Roark held the Atlanta Braves to a run on four hits in seven innings when he faced the Washington Nationals’ NL East rivals in his 2018 debut back on April 2nd in SunTrust Park.
The key to Roark’s success in that outing?
“For me it was pounding the strike zone,” Davey Martinez told reporters after what ended up the Nationals’ only win of that series. “We talk about that a lot, you know, not falling behind, staying out of big innings, and he did that really well.”
“I felt great,” Roark said that night. “Everything was working, [Pedro Severino] 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.”
Roark took the mound with a 1-0 lead over the Braves on Thursday night, in his second start of the season in SunTrust Park, but gave up two in the second on an RBI double by Preston Tucker and a bases-loaded grounder by the opposing pitcher, Sean Newcomb, whose two-hopper to short was too weak for the Nationals to turn a double play, 2-1.
Ozzie Albies singled on a pop to short left that Juan Soto and Trea Turner let drop in for a hit to start the Braves’ half of the third, after the Nationals rallied to tie it in the top of the inning, and the speedy infielder scored when Freddie Freeman doubled in the next at bat and Bryce Harper threw a one-hopper to second that got away from Trea Turner, 3-2. E:9.
Roark held it there through six innings, retiring the Braves in order in the fourth and working around a leadoff walk in the fifth, and a leadoff hit-by-pitch in the sixth, with double plays erasing the runners in back-to-back innings, but back-to-back, two-out hits in the seventh, a single to left by Ender Inciarte and an RBI double to right by Albies, put Atlanta up 4-2 and ended the night for the Nationals’ starter.
Tanner Roark’s Line: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 3 Ks, 98 P, 53 S, 9/2 GO/FO.
“He kept us in the ballgame,” Martinez said after the Nationals’ six-game win streak and streak of 10-straight wins on the road came to an end.
“That’s all you can ask. He did really well. Just the last [at bat], Albies was the big one, try to get him out there, give him one more hitter, and Albies put a good swing on a ball [and hit] a triple.”
It was a double, and Albies took third on the throw home going for Inciarte, but he did end up on third.
“He wasn’t going to face Freddie, so we were hoping he gets out of the inning right there and give him a chance to win.”
Roark was still on when the Nationals walked Freeman intentionally, then Tim Collins took over and walked Nick Markakis to load them up before Wander Suero came on and got a backwards K from Tyler Flowers to end the threat.
“It was one of those grinders,” Roark told reporters after his fifth start of the month without a win. “Just left it all out there.”
He was able to settle in after giving up three in the first three innings, and Roark held the Braves off the board till the seventh, but it wasn’t enough.
“I got into a little bit of a rhythm,” he said.
“The first like three innings I was not really finishing pitches, coming off pitches a lot, settled down like the fourth, fifth, sixth, and felt good the rest of the way.”
As for the Braves, who retook first place in the NL East with the win, did they seem like they were a different team than the one he faced in April?
“Yeah, they can swing it. Hats off to them. They put together good at bats and didn’t chase much, and just got to be more efficient and consistent in the strike zone, getting ahead of guys and stuff like that.”