Tanner Roark snapped a seven-start winless streak (over which he had a 7.68 ERA and an ugly .364/.436/.539 line against in 36 1⁄3 innings pitched) last time out on the mound, in Milwaukee, when he tossed eight scoreless, striking out 11 in what ended up a 7-3 win for Washington in Miller Park.
It was Roark’s longest outing and highest strikeout total of the season.
“He was awesome,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez said after that game. “He really was.”
“He attacked the zone, he was working quick, threw strikes, got quick outs, so he was really good.”
Roark, who’d been tinkering with his delivery to try to sort things out, said he finally felt like he got locked in. What was different?
“Just slow, slower,” he said. “Trying to think, ‘Don’t be too quick to the plate, let your foot, your leg, everything fire before you go,’ because unless — I get behind the ball, and it’s just flat, so it felt good. We came out early and scored some runs, so that was a big confidence booster.”
Roark got another confidence boost and a big lead to work with Tuesday night in the first of two with the New York Mets in Nationals Park, as the home team scored seven in the bottom of the first (with Roark driving in three runs with a base-clearing double), and three more runs in the second... then three in the third, and fourth, 16-0, as the right-hander put up four goose eggs on a total of 56 pitches.
A 16-pitch fifth, in which he picked up two Ks (for six total) left him at 72 pitches over five scoreless frames, and he came back out with an eight-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth, and got two outs from the Mets in the seventh before Jeff McNeil hit his first major league home run out to right on a first-pitch slider up in the zone, 19-1.
Tanner Roark’s Line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 94 P, 68 S, 7/5 GO/FO.
“Pretty exciting, and they came out to play today,” Martinez said after what ended up a 25-4 win over the Mets.
“Good at bats all day, and Tanner pitching the way he pitched was awesome. Just an all-around good day, you know, it’s been an emotional day and it was a good way to end it.”
Asked what he’s seen from Roark over the last two outings, Martinez said he finally saw the pitcher he expected to see this season.
“This is the Tanner Roark that I’ve seen for many years from the other side, and coming here this is what I expected from him.
“He’s doing really well and it’s really exciting to see him pitch that well. He’s a bulldog, and I told him that, I said, ‘We need you.’
“And in previous years I know he’s had some good success in the second-half, and I just told him, I said, ‘Stay right there and keep it going.’ Just a good all-around day for the Nats.”
Roark talked to MASN’s Dan Kolko and Johnny Holliday about what’s changed for him and how it felt to put together another solid start.
“Just not trying to rush the pitch,” he said. “Taking each pitch, like [Brandon] Kintzler helped me out, and so did [Pitching Coach Derek] Lilliquist, helped me out big-time with just being slow. I get a tendency of going too fast and wanting to throw the ball too quick and not able to ride it out down the hill and that doesn’t help my sinker out, when it just stays on the same plane, so getting on top of it and just riding it out and staying through it.”
As for how it felt?
“It feels great,” Roark said. “I always have confidence in myself and confidence in the team.”