Tanner Roark snapped a seven-start winless streak, over which he was (0-6) with a 7.68 ERA and a .364/.436/.539 line against in 36 1⁄3 IP, with eight scoreless on the mound against the Milwaukee Brewers in Miller Park back on July 25th.
That was the start of an unbeaten streak for the Washington Nationals’ righty, who put up a 1.63 ERA and a .206/.236/.270 line against over six starts and 38 2⁄3 IP before taking a loss against the New York Mets in his last start before facing the Brewers against last night in the nation’s capital.
Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez talked to reporters before the game against the Mets about his advice for Roark before the starter was able to turn things around.
“I told him,” Martinez explained, “I said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to pitch to your strengths and know who you are. 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.”
Roark got in trouble early in the series opener with the Brewers in D.C., giving up home runs by Travis Shaw and Erik Kratz in the first two innings as the visitors jumped out to a 3-1 lead, with Shaw hitting a low, 1-1 fastball out to center for a two-run homer, and Kratz connecting on a first-pitch fastball up in the zone that he sent out to left.
Jesus Aguilar hit the Brewers’ third home run of the night off Roark on a 3-2 fastball in the top of the third, 4-1.
Roark held the Brewers there through six, and was done for the night after 95 pitches in what ended up a 4-1 loss.
Tanner Roark’s Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 Ks, 3 HRs, 95 P, 58 S, 5/4 GO/FO.
The three home runs Roark allowed matched the total he gave up in his previous nine starts and 53 2⁄3 IP.
“Just a little erratic at times, not hitting my spots, and they made me pay for it,” Roark said, in summing up his outing after the game.
Asked what was different over the final three innings after he gave up the four runs early, Roark said it was a matter of getting control of his fastball.
“I think the whole night I was just trying to just establish my fastball and at times it wasn’t getting the sinker action, it was just the getting east to west movement, or west to east, I guess, movement, and so the hitters can stay with their bat on the same plane, so me getting on top of the ball and just having it get a good downward angle and get that sink going and then it plays off of everything else.”
“He felt like he threw the ball well,” Martinez told reporters. “Just a couple pitches caught too much of the plate. But he settled down, pitched well.”
It was an emotional night for the Nationals as a team, with both Ryan Madson and Roark’s long time rotation mate, Gio Gonzalez getting traded, but the right-hander said he didn’t allow it to affect him on the mound.
“We’re still going to go about our business and try to win ballgames,” Roark said, “and that’s what being up here is about, is winning, and we’re going to go out tomorrow and try to win. Yeah it sucks to see guys leave and guys that you’ve played with and got to know go, but it’s part of the game, you’re just going to have to go out there and play your game and now it’s more opportunity for other guys to come up here and get their feet wet and learn from being out there on the mound or being in the infield or whatever.”
Gonzalez, in particular, Roark said, had an impact on his career.
“He’s been in this game a long time and he knows what he’s doing,” Roark explained.
“He’s a big league pitcher and a class act. He showed me a lot and he’s given me some good pep talks and we’ve had some good talks together, so it sucks to see him go.”