PITTSBURGH - Needing innings today from Tanner Roark and then quality work from his bullpen, Dusty Baker got neither.
Roark’s latest abbreviated start, combined with more relief struggles, sent the Nationals today to a 10-4 loss to the Pirates and a series loss at PNC Park.
Baker was hoping for much better on a steamy afternoon along the shores of the Allegheny River, hoping Roark would be efficient enough to go six-plus innings and spare his bullpen some unnecessary work. But the Nationals starter once again labored early and wasn’t able to record an out in the sixth inning before allowing a season-high seven runs.
And when Blake Treinen (appearing in relief for the third straight day) and Enny Romero couldn’t keep the deficit where it was after Roark departed, the Nats found themselves in a sizeable hole, unable to dig out and produce a comeback victory.
Losers of two straight to the Pirates, the Nationals now head to Atlanta for a weekend series with the Braves, who today learned they’ll be without slugger Freddie Freeman for at least 10 weeks with a broken wrist.
The biggest difference between Roark in 2017 and Roark in prior years has been his inability to put away hitters, driving up his pitch count and preventing him from pitching deeper in games. He ranked third in the National League in seven-inning starts last season but has gone that far only once in nine starts this season.
Roark was in trouble from the outset today, giving up a two-run homer to Josh Bell in the bottom of the first to put his team in a hole. He walked three batters in the third, including one with the bases loaded, and ended that frame with his pitch count already at 72.
A home run to John Jaso in the fifth added to Roark’s woes, but even with his pitch count at 106, Baker needed him to start the sixth and give his overworked (and ineffective) bullpen a break. Roark couldn’t oblige; he put the first two batters on and forced Baker to summon Treinen from the ‘pen.
That didn’t go particularly well. Treinen gave up a two-run double to Adam Frazier, a sacrifice fly to Josh Harrison and a double to Andrew McCutchen before getting pulled himself.
Romero then gave up two more runs in the eighth, one of them unearned after a Daniel Murphy error.
The Nationals did get some early offense against Pirates right-hander Tyler Glasnow, with Murphy homering in the top of the second and an Adam Lind double and Glasnow error helping bring home three more runs in the top of the fourth.
But the league’s most productive lineup, which did not include Jayson Werth or Ryan Zimmerman today, couldn’t sustain the pressure. And once the Nationals found themselves trailing by more than a few runs, they played out the string and lived to fight another day.