Roark on current run with the Nationals: “It is a blast”

It was certainly a smart move by the Nationals to move Tanner Roark from the bullpen back to a starting role in Triple-A Syracuse this season.

And whether he was relieving or starting, Nationals pitching coordinator Spin Williams told manager Davey Johnson that Roark was a pitcher.

Williams was right.

In three starts for the Nationals, Roark has shown he can be successful in the big leagues.

Combining his relief work with these three starts, Roark is now 7-0 following a stunning 4-0 victory over the first-place Atlanta Braves. His ERA is now 1.08.

Roark spun seven innings, allowing two hits, one walk and striking out six. His curveball was on target as he retired 13 Braves in a row at one point. Roark said his curveball was dipping well so he kept going back to it.

“I used it a lot tonight just to keep hitters off balance, and attacking, keeping it down, changing eye levels,” Roark said. “Keeping it down was the biggest part for all my pitches tonight. So, it is always a good thing to keep the ball down.”

Last season, Roark went 6-17 with 4.39 ERA in 26 starts for Syracuse, striking out 130. In his work for the Chiefs, Roark was able to realize something in his mind set with each start that helped him focus on what he was trying to do each inning.

“I feel that last year is when I had my mental turn around,” Roark said. “That was the biggest thing for me. Just go out and not worry about anything else behind me, like bloop hits, just attacking and going after guys, keeping the ball down and keeping hitters off balance.”

His philosophy during this current run with the Nationals has been to be relentless.

“I am just trying to do the same thing that I was doing all year,” Roark said. “Not trying to change anything, just keeping the same mentality, the bulldog mentality of not giving in to anybody and any time.”

He also has done a nice job in starting by employing pitching strategy. Knowing that hitters would learn his tendencies after two at-bats, Roark would mix things up the next go around to help confuse.

“Especially when you see guys for the third time through the order they know what pitches you got,” he said. “They are watching from the dugout. They know what you have thrown them. So I try to keep them off balance, with staying true inside, inside fastballs and just keeping the ball down.”

He has started a season this well before, but Roark is all about the big picture, and just like any selfless starter, if the Nationals win, his personal record is not as important.

“I was (this successful) in High-A, 10-0 as a starter, that is what I remember,” Roark said. “It is a cool accomplishment. I am not worried about me being 7-0, I want the team to do well and us to keep winning and keep leaving everything out on the field.”

But this is not High-A, and Roark admitted he is having fun in since he arrived August 7.

“It is a blast, especially coming in and watching the end of the first game,” Roark said. “It just got me so amped up I wanted to start the game right then and there the next five minutes later. But I had to keep my cool and stay focused and go after them at 7:05.”

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