Right-hander Tanner Roark suffered his sixth loss of the season Friday, 7-2 to the Cubs at Nationals Park. That is the second loss to Chicago in as many starts. Each time, he allowed four runs.
"They did what they did last time, base hit me, just got beat," Roark said.
He also had a chance to impact the offense when he came up with two men on and no outs in the fifth, but was unable to lay the bunt down. His bunt went foul toward third base on a 3-2 count and he struck out. The Nationals did not score in the inning, one of their few chances all afternoon. They left only six men on base.
"Disappointing any time when I can't get a bunt down," Roark said. "I even get mad when I don't get a hit even though pitchers aren't supposed to be able to hit. There's nine people in the lineup for a reason. Everybody should be able to hit, but I thought I pitched well, they just beat me."
But Roark believes he has to pick the pitch he wants to throw in a certain situation and not always defer to what the catcher signals. He wants to be more assertive.
"I've got to execute the pitches that I want and shake off whenever I want when I want, and not just throw whatever the catcher puts down," Roark said. "I feel like that's what's been the biggest thing for me.
"Just go out there and do your thing. Keep pitching. You can't think too far into it. That'll make your stuff even worse. Then you start walking guys and trying to be perfect on every pitch."
Reliever Aaron Barrett allowed two hits and two runs after replacing Ross Detwiler. The Cubs ended up scoring three critical insurance runs in the ninth inning to open up a 4-2 game and make it 7-2. He was disappointed he couldn't get strike one early in each at-bat.
"I wasn't able to get strike one, falling behind in the count," Barrett said. "And then when I did fall behind, I didn't make the pitch when I had to. So with these type of hitters I just wasn't able to execute today for whatever reason.
"I'm kind of flying open a little bit right now, showing the ball too early because I'm not getting that sink that I had early in the season against lefties especially. Gonna try to hopefully make an adjustment. The key for me when I have success is strike one and being able to work off that. I wasn't able to do that today."
Center fielder Denard Span, who had a double in the game, praised Roark for battling throughout his start to try to keep the score close.
"That's a sign of character and toughness for him," Span said. "He didn't pitch his best game and he still gave us his all and gave us a chance to win. That's all you want from your starting pitcher. You got to tip off your hat to him."
Span had one of only five hits off of winning pitcher Jason Hammel, but he said the Cubs right-hander's breaking stuff was difficult to figure out.
"Whenever we did have opportunities, whenever we had guys in scoring position, he just made pitches," Span said. "He was able to throw his breaking balls in the right location and get us out. That was the difference in the game. We had opportunities. We just didn't capitalize on them."
Some may look at the Cubs' record (38-46), and think the Nationals should cruise. But that's three of five Chicago has won in the series and four straight overall. Span said the Cubs deserve the wins they've recorded lately.
"It's just one game. You want to try to win every single game, but come back tomorrow ready to go," Span said. "Chicago has been a hot team, they played us good this last week. They just got done sweeping Boston. We're playing a hot team. We've got to find a way to cool them off tomorrow."