Tanner Roark was on the mound in Citi Field facing the New York Mets back on July 13th when he had a moment of clarity that helped him start to turn his season around after a rough stretch of outings.
“We were down 4-0 through two, and I was in the third inning you know, I’m like, ‘I’m (3-12), I’m lined up for another loss, here we go. Screw it, here we go.’ And built off that one, kept building, and building, and building, and building and just keep on building.”
Roark tossed three scoreless to end that appearance, and he started to straighten things out over the next couple starts.
Over six outings that followed, before he faced the Mets in their home ballpark again on Saturday afternoon, Roark was (5-0) with a 1.63 ERA and a .206/.236/.270 line against in 38 2⁄3 innings, after he’d gone (0-6) with a 7.68 ERA and a .364/.436/.539 line against in 36 1⁄3 IP over a seven-start winless streak that preceded that change in mindset.
“I told him, I said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to pitch to your strengths and know who you are,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters when he was asked about Roark’s turnaround before the start of the second game of three in Flushing, Queens.
“That was the biggest thing, and in watching everything, and going back to 2016 when he was really good, I said, ‘You have to pitch down. That’s who you are. You’ve got to locate your fastball and use your fastball, and keep the ball down,’ and since he’s been doing that he’s been really, really good.”
Coming off a rain-shortened, three-inning appearance, Roark tossed five scoreless to start his latest outing, matching Mets’ righty Zack Wheeler to keep it 0-0, but an 0-2 pitch in the Mets’ half of the sixth, a fastball, knee-high inside at 92 mph to Amed Rosario, went out over the wall in center field in Citi Field to put the home team up 1-0 on the Nationals, who were up to 24 scoreless innings at that point, going back to last Wednesday’s walk-off win in the nation’s capital, making it seem like an insurmountable lead. That was it for Roark in what ended up a 3-0 loss.
El Niño looking more like El Hombre right now. pic.twitter.com/BXeRgB2wlt— New York Mets (@Mets) August 25, 2018
Tanner Roark’s Line vs Mets: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 90 P, 57 S, 5/2 GO/FO.
“Just did not execute a pitch,” Roark told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after the game.
“Just one pitch. And usually when you don’t execute one pitch in a pitchers’ duel, it usually comes down to that. And it happened today.”
“Tanner kept us in the game, and pitched well,” Martinez added.
“He had 90+ pitches after a short rest, I thought that was plenty, plus we’re behind. We had an opportunity to score there and we couldn’t.”
Roark said he was fine in spite of pitching on short rest.
“Just tried to keep it simple like I would do throughout the rest of my starts,” he explained, “like a different start, five days’ rest, and I felt great. Felt good. I felt like I got stronger as the game went on and had a lot of pitches working for me, just one bad pitch.”