Tanner Roark has been awfully sharp so far in his rescheduled start. Matt Wisler was equally as sharp for three innings, but then Stephen Drew and Jayson Werth took care of that and gave Roark and the Nationals the evening's first lead.
Drew's solo homer in the bottom of the fourth (his first of the season) put the Nats up 1-0 on the Braves. Moments later, Werth took Wisler deep to left-center, a two-run shot that extended the lead to 3-0.
Drew is making his first start of the year, filling in for Anthony Rendon at third base (a position he has barely played in his career). The Nationals like the 33-year-old's defensive versatility, but they really like his power potential at the plate, which he displayed tonight; he launched a 2-2 pitch from Wisler over the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center to break a scoreless tie.
After Daniel Murphy drew a one-out walk, Werth stepped to the plate and pounced on Wisler's first-pitch fastball, sending it soaring on a beeline into the Red Porch seats beyond the fence in left-center for his first homer of the young season.
Roark was the happy recipient of the sudden run support.
As was the case last Thursday in the Nationals' home opener, Roark was thrown into something of an unusual situation. That day, he had to wait out an 85-minute rain delay in the middle of the second inning. There was no delay this time, only a reshuffling of the rotation after Stephen Strasburg had to be scratched with an illness.
Roark, who was originally scheduled to start Thursday afternoon's series finale, had 24 hours advance notice about this change, so he took the mound knowing what to expect. And he pitched like it, going right after Atlanta's hitters.
He retired the side in the top of the first on 13 pitches, then avoided potential disaster in the top of the second when he loaded the bases without a ball leaving the infield but emerged without anybody crossing the plate.
Effectively commanding his two-seam fastball, Roark induced a whole lot of weak fly balls to the opposite field. Werth recorded five putouts alone in the game's first 2 2/3 innings.
Update: Boy, has Roark been sharp tonight. He's through six scoreless innings on 89 pitches, allowing just three hits. His two-seam fastball has been especially deadly, starting at a left-handed batter's hip and then diving back over the inside corner of the plate.
That's the pitch that made Greg Maddux a Hall of Famer. Hmm, I wonder if another Maddux has helped Roark perfect that pitch at all...
It's 3-0 Nats as we move to the seventh.
Update II: Roark finished off one more scoreless innings, starting a nifty 1-6-3 double play to end the seventh at an even 100 pitches. Dusty Baker then handed this one over to his bullpen, specifically Oliver Perez, who cruised through a 1-2-3 eighth that included strikeouts of both Freddie Freeman and Adonis Garcia. Impressive.
The Nats haven't done anything at the plate since the homers in the fourth, but they haven't needed anything. It's still 3-0 as Jonathan Papelbon enters for the ninth in search of his fourth save.
Update III: Well, that was quick. Nats win 3-0 and they did it in a tidy 2 hours, 12 minutes. Roark gets the win with seven scoreless innings. Drew and Werth supplied all the offense with their fourth-inning homers. Papelbon gets his fifth save in only seven games into the season. And the Nats improve to 6-1.