Tanner Roark took one for the team against the Boston Red Sox earlier this week, giving up 10 hits and nine earned runs in a seven-inning, 98-pitch outing in the nation’s capital which spared the Washington Nationals’ beleaguered bullpen. It also left him winless in five starts, over which he had a 7.57 ERA and a .336/.408/.558 line against in 27 1⁄3 IP.
Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez talked after the loss to the Sox about what he saw from Roark as he tried to get it together on the mound.
“I think when he’s good, the ball is down,” Martinez said. “When I’ve seen him really good, the ball is down, when he elevates balls, he tends to get hit hard.”
“It’s very frustrating,” Roark admitted. “I felt like all my stuff was down, velocity was good, location was good. So yeah, it’s definitely frustrating.”
Going into Sunday’s start against the Miami Marlins, Martinez said he wanted to see his starter attacking and low in the strike zone.
“I want to see him attack the zone early in counts and then his secondary pitches have to be sharp, but when he’s down, he’s really, really good.
“Because when he’s down you can’t tell whether it’s fastball, two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball or a slider, everything works well when he’s down, so I’m looking forward to him going out there today and competing and being the Tanner that he can be.”
Roark worked around a hit-by-pitch, two singles, and an E:5 in a scoreless, 22-pitch first, but back-to-back-to-back singles in the second led to the first run of the game for the Fish, and a 1-0 fastball up and over the plate to Marlins’ catcher J.T. Realmuto was lined to right for an opposite field, two-run single that made it 3-0. Roark was up to 55 pitches after two.
After the Nationals scored a run in the bottom of the second, Roark worked his way out of bases-loaded jam in the third, but threw another 22 pitches, which left him at 79 total after three.
Another run in the Nationals’ third got them within one, but leadoff and one-out singles set the Fish up with runners on the corners in the fourth, and an RBI single to right by JT RIddle made it a 4-2 game. Roark was done after four in what ended up a 10-4 loss.
Tanner Roark’s Line: 4.0 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 102 P, 62 S, 5/0 GO/FO.
Both Roark and his manager were left searching for answers after another rough outing for the right-hander.
“We’re going to have to sit down and figure this whole thing out with him,” Martinez said, “... because I know he’s better than that and so does he. We talked about him throwing the ball down, he goes through a stretch where he gets the ball down, he looks really good, then he elevates again, and he gets hit, so we’ve got to get him to believe that he can throw the ball down.
“And the numbers indicate that when he’s down he’s really good. So we’re going to talk to him, [Derek Lilliquist] and I, and work on some things his next bullpen and flat ground and see if we can get him down there consistently.”
“Sometimes we think he’s too quick,” Martinez when asked to diagnose the issue.
“His head comes out first, and sometimes from where I’m sitting I can see the ball for a long period of time so I know the hitters can see it too. So we’ll sit back and starting tomorrow figure this thing out because moving forward we need him and we need him to be the Tanner Roark that we all know he can be.”
Roark didn’t have any answers on the mound or when he spoke to reporters after the game.
Asked what wasn’t there for him, Roark said simply, “I don’t know, I felt great.”
Is it a question of just elevating at bad times, or does he feel like it’s as simple as keeping the ball down or what does he identify as the issue?
“Good question,” Roark said. “Next.”
The pitches that end up thigh-high are getting smoked. “Yes, usually thigh-high pitches get smoked,” Roark said.