CHICAGO - The Nationals couldn’t manage much offense against Cubs starter Jason Hammel, and Chicago put up 12 hits on Tanner Roark and Jerry Blevins, scoring seven runs and taking a 7-2 win in the second game of this four-game series.
The Cubs have now taken the first two games, and the Nats will need to sweep the doubleheader tomorrow in order to head home with a split in this series and a winning road trip.
Pitching near his hometown of Wilmington, Ill., Roark allowed four runs on 10 hits over six innings. It wasn’t his typically sharp outing, and Blevins followed by allowing three runs in 2/3 of an inning, as the Cubs broke things open in the seventh.
The Nats took an early lead, pushing across a run in the top of the second, but managed little after that.
Manager Matt Williams announced after the game that right-hander Taylor Hill (who worked a scoreless eighth today) will be optioned to Triple-A Syracuse, and lefty reliever Xavier Cedeno will come up from Syracuse to bolster the bullpen ahead of tomorrow’s doubleheader.
Here are postgame reactions from the clubhouse:
Williams on Roark’s outing: “Some tweeners out there. They got some hits when they needed to. So once again, you’re one pitch away from getting out of something, and it hasn’t happened for us the last couple outings. Pitch count was high again, so he couldn’t go as deep as we wanted him to go.”
Williams on whether Roark was too amped pitching in his hometown park: “No, I don’t think so. It’s a normal start for him. Just didn’t happen for him today.”
Williams on Roark’s last few outings: “I don’t see anything different. The last couple of days with Doug (Fister) and with Tanner, (the Cubs) have put together some long at-bats. One long inning for Tanner today and a couple long innings for Doug last night. They’re grinding out at-bats on ‘em. It’s a credit to their hitters, too. We didn’t get it done again today, but we’ve got two tomorrow.”
Williams on Roark’s fastball command: “It’s difficult to tell from the dugout. Not as many curveballs today, maybe. That kind of neutralizes a lefty. And not as many changeups, either. You go out there and you’ve got a plan, but if you don’t have a feel for something, you’ve got to go to something else. He’s done a good job of that. Today wasn’t his day, though.”
Williams on the Nats missing an opportunity to put up a crooked number in the second inning: “He made some pitches, too. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Creating opportunities and delivering on them. They did that today, with Blev, too. Struck out the lefty and they got the big double with the bases loaded. They’ve done it the last two, we haven’t. Hopefully that trend changes tomorrow.”
Williams on what wasn’t working for Blevins: “I think today was curveball command. He really didn’t throw his curveball where he wanted. Certainly against left-handers, that’s the matchup we want there, and he’s the guy to do it. Today, he just didn’t have the curveball. He had to go with fastballs today.”
Roark on his outing: “Just got base hit to death. They were squaring the ball up and hitting it right through the holes. Nothing you can do about it. Come out next start, I’ve got them again, I believe, on the Fourth of July, come back out and go get them then.”
Roark on how he tries to limit the long at-bats that Cubs hitters were putting together: “Keep throwing strikes. Eventually, they’re going to have to put the ball in play. That’s one of my biggest strengths is I throw strikes. They keep fouling it off, go back up there and throw the next pitch. Don’t give in, that’s the biggest thing.”
Roark on how his off-speed stuff was: “I couldn’t keep the first guy off base. I feel like that was the biggest thing. There was a little pressure, but nothing I haven’t seen before. Just changeup, curveball, fastball was a little up today. They were putting good wood on the ball.”
Roark on whether he was nervous pitching near home: “No, I pitched here last year, so I got all the jitters out then when I saw everybody and had everybody chanting my name out there in the bleachers. I got it all out then. Just normal stuff.”
Blevins on what hasn’t been working lately: “I watched a little bit of film today after the game, and I saw a couple little variations I could make. Feel like I’m just one tweak away from getting right back on track.”
Blevins on if it’s a mechanical thing: “Yeah. (Smiles) I’m not going to tell you what it is, though.”
Blevins on if falling behind hitters was an issue: “Absolutely. Not throwing strikes - that’s the No. 1 key. When you’re missing the strike zone, you’re falling behind, there’s not much good gonna come of that. That’s definitely the key.”
Blevins on not being able to keep it a two-run game: “You keep it 4-2, with our offense, you’ve got to keep it in the game. You let up those three runs there, kinda deflates the momentum or chance of a fight. That was the turning point.”