Right-hander Tanner Roark did everything he could possibly do to keep the Nationals in the game and continue his home dominance.
Roark went 6 2/3 innings and scattered seven hits, allowing no runs with two walks, one intentional, and five strikeouts. He was a workhorse with 105 pitches, 63 for strikes.
There is something about Roark at Nationals Park. He has allowed one earned run in 26 innings at home for a 0.35 ERA. Roark said the home numbers are good, of course, but more important to him is his schedule: getting to pitch every five days.
"It is good to be on a routine, knowing when you are going to pitch and everything like that, that is the biggest thing, is to keep a routine," Roark said. "I like the stadium. It is the same as any other place, but you get the fans behind you, it is good motivation."
His first three games this season were on the road. His first home game, he allowed no runs in 6 2/3 innings. Mike Trout went 1-for-3 with a single and a strikeout against Roark. Albert Pujols went 0-for-3 against him, including a rally-killing 6-4-3 double play in the third that squelched a potential big inning for the Halos.
"Attack, keep them on the defensive and not myself on the defensive," Roark said. "Get first-pitch strike, then I can use my slider, changeup, curveball or even fastball again. That was the biggest thing. Definitely easier said than done. I felt like I had good command of the fastball tonight, which I use a lot. That was the biggest thing.
"I was trying to get ahead, I feel like first pitch strike was a big thing for me tonight - I mean has got to be always so. Sinker was working well tonight. Used that a lot. I kept attacking. It felt real good. Felt very strong up there on the mound, just confident."
Pitchers always know their job is half the battle. You still need runs to win. And one run Monday night was not enough. But the bottom line: Roark kept his club in the game with a chance to win it and he left with the lead.
"Scoring, it happens sometimes, and doesn't happen as often as you would like it to," Roark said. "But tonight was a pitching duel, unfortunately we came out on bottom. But we got (two) games ahead of us, go after them and win the series."
In a start to the season where the offense has not quite been as consistent as the Nationals had hoped through 20 games, pitching shutout ball and lowering your ERA to 3.80 is key step for the starting rotation when you are battling a Braves starting rotation that has been exceptional. A start like Monday's outing makes the link between Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann unto Roark stronger.