Roark, Desmond and Stammen after 7-3 loss to Orioles

Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark got to the seventh inning again. Previously he had finished five straight seventh innings and won four of those decisions.

On Monday, he couldn’t get through that frame as the Orioles scored three times and went on to earn a 7-3 comeback win.

“Ball’s up, elevated, wasn’t hitting my spots,” Roark said. “Like I’ve told you guys many times before, balls up and not hitting your spots, then you get hit hard, and that’s what happens.”

roark-pitching-face-on-sidebar-white.jpgBefore Roark took the hill in the seventh, the Nationals had runners on the corners with two men out in the bottom of the sixth, leading 3-2. Manager Matt Williams elected to let Roark hit. He grounded out to first base to end the threat.

Was Roark surprised Williams didn’t pinch-hit in that situation?

“No, he has confidence in me,” Roark said. “That’s all that a starting pitcher can ever ask for, and a reliever, too. It’s a confidence booster.”

For the first time in 10 starts, Roark allowed more than one home run in a start, giving up solo shots to Caleb Joseph and Nick Markakis.

“The one to Joseph, that was definitely a two-seamer that ran back over the middle of the plate, was supposed to be the outside corner,” Roark recalled. “And then curveball was down and in, it was a good pitch, but it was down and in right where he could hit that. (Markakis) loves curveballs. I was trying to keep it out over the plate so that it would roll over. It went right in his happy zone. He got a good hit on it.”

“He was rolling but unfortunately that happens sometimes,” shortstop Ian Desmond said of Roark. “They’ve got a good offensive ballclub. They capitalized on some mistake pitches. Credit to him, he did a good job up until that point.”

Roark said it wasn’t just about missing pitches or opportunities, they lost to a good ballclub.

“They are in first place for a reason,” Roark said. “They hit the ball and it showed tonight. They hit the ball, kept them in the game. Eventually, they ended up winning.”

Orioles starter Kevin Gausman went six innings and allowed three runs on eight hits. Desmond was caught looking twice by Gausman.

“He was really good,” Desmond said. “Made some really good pitches to me. He gave me one good pitch to hit and I fouled it off. He painted it all night.”

Center fielder Denard Span made a diving catch in the sixth to get Nelson Cruz. The catch created a healthy sized divot that Jayson Werth mended for about a minute so Span could catch his breath.

“That was great,” Desmond said of the snare. “We’ve been watching him do that for a couple of years now. He’s the best out there.”

Nationals reliever Craig Stammen came in to try to calm the Orioles bats, but was unsuccessful. They racked up six hits and two more runs against Stammen.

“Yeah, I’ve given up a lot of hits, all singles,” Stammen said. “I’ve given up 11 hits in two outings and they’ve all been singles. Sinkerball pitcher, I pitch to contact, sometimes they hit them where the fielders aren’t.”

Stammen believes he knows what he needs to do to tweak his approach a bit and erase some hittable offerings.

“There’s probably a little adjustment that I have to make,” Stammen said. “I think my location is a just little bit off. I’m not missing by a ton, I’m not walking guys, but I’m leaving the ball more over the plate then I normally do.

“Whenever you go into the game, you’re trying to keep the game close or try to keep the lead. That didn’t happen today. So, it’s disappointing. The best thing about baseball is there is another game tomorrow.

“They’re good. They’ve hit me well this year, to say the least.”

With the emphasis on the starters doing so well recently, some may forget how hard the bullpen had to work earlier in the season to keep the team in games. Could all that work be starting to tax the ‘pen more than it should in early August?

“I don’t think we’re worried about wearing down,” Stammen said. “We’ve proven, I think all of us, that we can withstand major league seasons and that we’ve all pitched well at the end of seasons. Even though this is a little lull, I think maybe the averages are just evening out a little bit and we’ll get back on track here shortly.”

“I think they are still like in the top three as far as bullpen goes,” Desmond said. “They’ve done a great job all year long. We rely on them heavily. They’ll be there when we need them.”

Stammen did admit that because the starters have been so efficient, it might have hurt his rhythm.

“A little bit. I think I’ve pitched, what, twice in the last 14 days?” Stammen said. “For me that’s usually not a good sign. But our starters have done really well and so that means less innings for the bullpen. Usually that’s when the bullpen struggles a little bit, when they’re not pitching a lot. So it’s kind of a devil’s advocate. But it’s more fun to win then pitch more.”

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