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Tanner Roark continues to turn season around in Nationals’ 9-4 win over Cubs

Tanner Roark held the Chicago Cubs to two runs on nine hits in 7 2⁄3 innings on the mound in Wrigley Field in what ended up a 9-4 win for the Washington Nationals.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

After a seven-start winless streak in which he went (0-6) with a 7.68 ERA and .364/.436/.539 line against in 36 13 innings pitched, Tanner Roark took the mound on Saturday afternoon in Wrigley Field unbeaten in his previous three outings, over which he was (3-0) with 0.82 ERA and a .177/.188/.228 line against in 22 IP.

Roark, 31, tossed eight scoreless against the Brewers in Milwaukee, then followed that up with two seven inning starts in which he gave up one run each to the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds.

Davey Martinez talked after Roark’s start against the Reds in the nation’s capital last week about what changed to turn the pitcher’s season around after he’d struggled for a couple months.

“He’s definitely got confidence right now,” Martinez said, “... and that’s always a good thing, and when you’re starting to pitch the way he’s pitching, the more he does it the better he’s going to feel in his own head. So for him, doing what he’s doing right now, we need that and it’s a big pick-me-up for us right now.”

Roark was solid again in Chicago Cubs to a run on four hits through four innings as the Nats built up a 9-1 lead, and he threw a scoreless nine-pitch fifth, and 14-pitch sixth, completing six innings on 89 pitches, allowing just five hits.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

An 11-pitch seventh that left him at 100 pitches total, and he went back out for the eighth, giving up three hits and a run before he was lifted.

Tanner Roark’s Line: 7.2 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 117 P, 75 S, 5/3 GO/FO.

“He was good,” Martinez said after what ended up a 9-4 win.

“Threw strikes. Used his fastball quite a bit, I mean, he really did attack the zone. When he does that he’s good. He’s been really good.”

Roark threw just 106, 94, and 88 pitches in the previous three outings, so Martinez sent him back out for the eighth after discussing it with Roark.

“I wanted to create some length. His last few outings he only went less than 100 pitches. I asked him that last inning before he came out, ‘How are you feeling?’ and he said, ‘I feel great.’

“And I said, ‘You want to go back out,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I want to stretch myself out a little bit.’ I said, ‘Okay, you’ve got 115 pitches.’ He was good.”

The difference the last four starts, Roark said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, has been getting his sinker under control.

“Just being able to drive more toward the plate and be more deceptive. Getting on top of the ball with my sinker was a huge part of it. Using it to both sides of the plate, and also mixing my four-seamer to keep the hitters honest.”

“He keeps stacking them up,” Daniel Murphy told MASN’s Dan Kolko after he went 3 for 4 in the win. “He was awesome today. Fastball to both sides of the plate. He was able to run it in on their hands and bring it back to the other side of the plate, throw a curveball for a strike when he needed to, slider for the kill, and some good changeups as well too. It was a joy to play behind him today and he was awesome.”