Right-hander Tanner Roark did not win last night’s 10-4 rain-soaked comeback over the Phillies, but he was well on his way. Roark fired three shutout innings, allowing only a Carlos Santana leadoff single to begin the second.
But a one-hour, 42-minute rain delay ended Roark’s night before he could out together another win. He was riding a career-high five-game win streak coming into the matchup. His last loss was July 13 at New York against the Mets.
“I felt ok to do it but in the long run if something goes wrong, it was an hour, 40 minutes between throwing my last pitch so obviously ruling against it,” Roark said.
“We talked to him, and I’m not going to do that to him,” said manager Davey Martinez. “He’s pitching really well. Hey, it’s not his fault that it rained.”
The Phillies had just one base runner against Roark. He retired nine of the first 10 hitters he faced. This was a nice bounce back from what he had done earlier in the season against the Phillies: 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA.
Roark also raked. His RBI double to deep center field in the second inning gave the Nationals the lead 1-0. He has eight RBIs on the season. The burly right-hander said he takes pride in finding a way to contribute on offense as well.
“Honestly I’ve been in the cage, well not in the cage but outside hitting a lot more,” Roark said. “Just taking it more seriously, as I told you guys last start as I was on base three times and maybe a little tired, it’s a part of our job and we hit for a reason so I don’t just want to be another out. I want to be good at bunting first and foremost and get some hits every now and then.”
Then there was the news that the club traded veterans Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams before the game. Roark, one of the longest tenured Nationals, having pitched in 177 games since 2013, was a good person to ask how this affects him and the clubhouse moving forward.
“It’s tough to see those guys go, especially Murph and Adams, both key players on this team and great teammates and they played hard every day and wanted the best of themselves and everybody else,” Roark said. “We’ll see them here next month. Overall, it’s tough to watch them go but we need to have guys step up and it’s not like we’re out of it, we still got to keep fighting, keep going and keep winning.
“It’s time for guys to step up. I mean what are you going to do, it’s not our prerogative to worry about that. It’s upper management and it’s our job to go out on the field and play and win. That’s the only thing that matters, it’s tough to see those guys leave. But we’ll be fine, we’ll keep battling and doing our best.”
Roark has certainly stepped up the last month after finding renewed confidence in his fastball: when to use it and how to place it.
“Just off of each and every start just building confidence in each pitch that I throw, no matter what the count is,” Roark said. “And trusting (Matt) Wieters behind the plate, as soon as the ball leaves my hand it’s out of my (hand), I’ve executed it and done my best to execute it and have the convention in every pitch. Whatever they do behind that, happens -- errors, hits, so be it.”
Roark can be a critical part of the Nats last ditch effort to win the division if he can continue to perform this well. Alongside Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, who also are scheduled to pitch in this series, they can become the 1-2-3 punch the team needs to make the Phillies and Braves sweat before September 30. That was what Roark expected before his 3-12 start.