Nationals mystified by Marlins' mastery of Roark

If baseball truly is a game of adjustments, as they like to say, Tanner Roark has some major work staring him in the face before next weekend's series in Miami.

Roark figures to start Friday night's opener at Marlins Park - unless Nationals manager Dusty Baker decides to bump him up to pitch against the Mets the night before instead of Stephen Strasburg - and that means the right-hander will have to figure out some way to beat a Miami lineup that has owned him for two seasons now.

The latest head-to-head matchup between the two sides tonight was another lopsided affair. The Marlins scored seven times off Roark in five innings, cruising to a 7-1 victory to split a day-night doubleheader at Nationals Park.

roark-pitching-red-sidebar.jpg"I don't know, they scored more runs - seven runs - than we did," he said with a virtual shrug of the shoulders. "It is what it is. You're not going to have a shutout game (every time). Sometimes these games happen."

True enough, but they keep happening to Roark against this particular team. He has now started eight games this season, three of them against the Marlins. In those three games, he's 0-3 with an 8.40 ERA. In the five other games, he's 2-0 with an 0.79 ERA.

Go back to last season, and the trend continues. In nine total games (five starts) vs. Miami since 2015, Roark is 0-6 with a 7.14 ERA.

What gives? Why does this otherwise quality big league pitcher struggle so much against this particular opponent?

"I don't know," Baker said. "We're trying to figure that out, too. Because I hope that team's not becoming a nemesis to him. Because everybody has a couple teams they have trouble with. (Pitching coach) Mike (Maddux) has gone back to the drawing board each time and tried to figure it out. They're hitting him pretty hard."

Roark never really had a chance to breathe easy tonight. He plunked Derek Dietrich on the game's third pitch, then gave up a single to Martin Prado and found himself trying to wriggle his way out of jams all night.

The Marlins got to him for two runs in the top of the second, another in the top of the third (on Justin Bour's solo homer) and then the final nails in the coffin: four runs in the top of the fifth via back-to-back two-out two-run singles by Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto.

"He didn't have it from the beginning, when he hit the first batter and couldn't control the zone like he usually does," Baker said. "In that inning they got the four runs, I thought he had a chance to get out of it, especially when he got the first two batters (with the bases loaded and nobody out). And they got a couple two-out knocks, RBI hits that eluded us most of the day."

By the time he departed, Roark had thrown a whopping 114 pitches in only five innings. Now he has to figure out a way to figure out the Marlins before he faces them again.

"I'm still pitching my game," he said. "I'm not going to change. I'm still going to attack the hitters and go after them. So I don't have any answers for you. It is what it is."

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