Right-hander Tanner Roark achieved another milestone Saturday by earning his first major league victory.
And it took only 12 pitches.
Roark retired six consecutive Phillies in the sixth and seventh innings. The Nationals’ offense scored six runs in those two innings to come back and win 8-5.
“It felt great, the come-from-behind win,” Roark said. “Great team effort, bats came alive and it was awesome to watch.”
Roark had watched starter Taylor Jordan allow four runs in the second inning and knew he had to keep the deficit right where it was. But the focus for Roark was just like any other night as a long reliever, a job he held in Triple-A Syracuse for most of the early part of the season.
“Be aggressive. Coming out of the bullpen, you’ve got to be aggressive,” Roark said. “You’ve got to come right at guys. That is what I am trying to do and get the guys back in the dugout and get our swing on.
“Come out of the bullpen and just attacking guys and going right at them, forcing them to swing the bat. Trying to get ahead as much as I can.”
Roark knew the big comeback might yield him a victory in the stat book, but he knew what the win meant to his team, too.
“Yeah, I realized it,” Roark smiled. “But most importantly, we got the win. The team got the win. We got a streak going, two (games), let’s keep it going.”
Roark said his parents, Toby and Jody, will get the honors of the game ball for his first major league win.
“Definitely going to give it to my mom and dad back home,” Roark said. “They have a little trophy case for all my brothers and sisters. Going to give it to them, I am sure they are going to be pretty ecstatic about it.”
The Phillies took the early lead by getting to Jordan in the second inning with five hits. A pitch to Phillies right fielder Darin Ruf was one Jordan wanted back. After that, he settled in with three scoreless innings, not altering his game plan.
“I didn’t really change anything,” Jordan said. “I made a really bad pitch in the second inning to Ruf. It was a four-seam fastball and it tailed inside. I didn’t follow through with it. It is not supposed to sink at all. Instead it went down the middle of the plate.”
Jordan said he did not let the big inning get him flustered. He reasoned that if they kept giving him the ball each inning, they still had a shot and they still believed he was the one that could get some key outs.
“I am still out there whether or not you give up those four runs,” Jordan said. “Just don’t want them to get the fifth. You’ve got to just keep on trying. Doesn’t matter how many runs you have given up. As long as I am up there, I don’t want them to get one more.”
Manager Davey Johnson had said before the game Jordan could be stretched out to 155 total innings this year, one season removed from Tommy John surgery.
With the possibility of being shut down, Jordan has not let it bother his focus on getting the job done on the mound.
“I definitely try not to focus on it today,” Jordan said. “Just stay in there as long as I can and keep on trying to put up zeroes and get those outs.”
But Jordan now has accumulated 90 1/3 innings between high Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg this season, plus the 45 2/3 frames he has pitched in the majors. He admitted feeling the effects of a long campaign.
“Physically the season is wearing a little bit, but I am still able to keep the ball down for the most part,” Jordan said. “Everything is still there I think.”
Johnson never wants to tell his pitchers how much time they may have left for fear it will mentally interfere with what they need to do on the hill. But that is 136 innings for Jordan, 19 or so innings away from being shut down for the season.
That could mean at least three more starts for Jordan. He has shown resiliency in his eight major league starts, the kind of determination he demonstrated again on Saturday.
That resiliency will be critically valuable in his next three starts for the Nationals and, in turn, their ability to contend for a playoff spot.