In four June starts before Thursday’s series opener with the Philadelphia Phillies in Citizens Bank Park, Tanner Roark went (1-2) with a 6.64 ERA, nine walks (3.98 BB/9), 18 Ks (7.97 K/9), and a .310/.378/.540 line against in 20 1⁄3 innings pitched.
Roark had failed to make it through the fifth in each of his previous two outings, going just four innings in Toronto (8 H, 2 BB, 4 ER) and just 4 1⁄3 against Philadelphia last time out (7 H, 4 BB, 6 ER), which led to the right-hander spending some time watching some video from the 2016 season in the clubhouse to try to find some clue as to what was behind his recent struggles.
“I think it’s a small little mechanical thing that I’m going through right now,” Roark said, “... and just sometimes [you] overthink it, but I was watching film for the rest of the game and was looking at myself in ‘16.
“It’s always minor things and something with timing and so that’s what I kind of looked at and was kind of comparing from ‘16 to this year.”
Davey Martinez’s diagnosis of Roark’s struggles against the Phillies last time out? He said he didn’t think it was anything physical.
“He says he feels fine,” Martinez told reporters.
“Today it just didn’t look like he was attacking the strike zone, to me, threw a lot more breaking pitches, didn’t use his fastball enough, so when you fall behind some of these hitters, they’re pretty good, you’re going to get hit pretty good.”
In his second consecutive outing against the Nationals’ NL East rivals tonight, Roark was a little shaky early, with an unearned run scoring on back-to-back hits in the first two at bats in the second as he threw 49 pitches over the course of the first two innings.
A hit-by-pitch, one-out single and sac fly gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead after a 14-pitch third by Roark, who was up to 63 pitches overall. He held them there through five, settling in with a couple quick frames, and returned to the mound at 85 pitches in the sixth and stranded a double by Maikel Franco (that almost went out) and an intentional walk in a 22-pitch frame that left him at 107 pitches total.
Tanner Roark’s Line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 107 P, 62 S, 6/3 GO/FO.
Ryan Madson gave up a two-run blast in the seventh that put the Phillies up 4-1 in what was a 4-3 win in the end after the Nationals rallied late to score two in the ninth but fell short of a second straight comeback win against their divisional rivals.
Roark told reporters, including MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, that the changes he made based on what he saw studying film were just to simplify things after he’d tweaked his delivery.
“Trying to get back to what I was in the past, because I was just trying to modify things in Spring Training,” he explained. “Make things simpler, to not move around as much. But I could feel myself over the rubber a lot of the times, a lot of the pitches tonight, and just getting everything going towards the plate, instead of fighting myself off. My arm was on time.”
“Tanner pitched good enough to win,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said after the loss.
“That was good to see. He started off a little erratic, and then all of a sudden he started getting the ball down where he’s good and he pitched well.”
“I just told myself: ‘Just hit my spots and locate,’” Roark said of settling in. “Just stare at the glove and keep the ball down.”