Tanner Roark didn’t know he’d be on the mound Thursday until right around three hours before first pitch. Jordan Zimmermann walked in sick and the Nats turned to tomorrow’s scheduled starter in a pinch.
Didn’t turn out to be much of an obstacle once he got past allowing a two-run Mets rally in the first inning. The Nationals right-hander held New York scoreless over his last five frames, opening his season with a quality start - two earned runs in six innings to earn the decision in an 8-2 sweep-clinching win.
After today’s game at Citi Field in New York, Roark said he isn’t the type to get fazed by a changeup of that variety.
“I just go with the flow. Whatever they tell me to do, that’s what I’m here for,” Roark said. “If they want me to pitch whenever, I’ll pitch then. It’s basically up to them. I just get the ball and go. ...
“Well, you’ve just got to kind of take it in waves. You’re out in the bullpen, you’ve got to get ready that fast. But I had a couple hours to get ready. It’s surprising, but nothing you can do about it. So I went out there and did my thing. We had a good offense today. That helped out a lot, took the pressure off me. I felt good.”
The 27-year-old didn’t panic and run off to scout the Mets the second he had found out.
“No, I’ve been watching in the dugout the last two games. And I faced them in spring training,” Roark said. “So I kind of had an idea how I wanted to pitch to them, how I wanted to throw.”
Roark’s parents might be the people who were most disappointed. His family was driving to Washington from Wilmington, Ill. - about a 12-hour drive - to see him start the Nats’ home opener Friday.
“My mom and dad were driving out. And then I told them this morning. They were on the road,” he said. “They were bummed out, but we still get to spend time together, which is good. First time in D.C.”
Roark’s parents will still attend Friday and Saturday’s games at Nationals Park.
As for Thursday’s win, Roark and the Nats fell into an early hole, but his steadiness over his last five frames helped the team come back.
“I felt like I used my fastball a lot more and stopped using my off-speed, starting moving the ball more in and out,” Roark said. “... I was letting the ball go and not trying to pinpoint and nibble as much. Just throw the ball and get it over the plate and force them to swing.”
And that’s exactly what the Mets did, failing to score a run over the last eight innings.