Nationals ride rookies, Roark to 5-2 win over Braves (updated)

In an effort to give many of his regulars a well-deserved breather, Dusty Baker has fielded several lineups recently featuring more rookies and backups than veterans and starters. Not that it has hurt his team's chances of winning. Quite the contrary.

Tonight's "B" lineup was plenty effective at the plate against the Braves, and with Tanner Roark tossing another quality start before handing the game over to his bullpen, the Nationals earned a comfortable 5-2 victory to avoid a series sweep at home.

Robles Dugout Congrats Sidebar.jpgVictor Robles and Adrián Sanchez were among the biggest contributors on a night when the rookies were batting sixth and seventh for a major league division champion. Robles had two hits (including an RBI triple) and scored two runs, wowing the crowd of 25,192 with his speed. Sanchez had the two-run double that provided the Nationals' bullpen some cushion to close out the win.

"The young players, I've always said you hope that they give you energy and we give them some wisdom and knowledge on how to play the game," Baker said. "And we can take from them, and hopefully they can take something from us. And that's what we were hoping tonight with that lineup out there."

The kids may have given them the lead, but the Nationals turned to their veteran bullpen to finish the win. Matt Albers, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle had little trouble doing it, each tossing a scoreless inning in relief of Roark, who continued his recent surge with another strong pitching performance.

After an erratic first half to his season, Roark has been steady and effective over the last two months, finally putting away hitters with two strikes and minimizing damage. And this was among his best performances in that regard.

Roark retired 14 of the first 15 Atlanta batters he faced, the lone exception Freddie Freeman, who drew a two-out walk in the top of the first. The right-hander struck out the side in the top of the third, then showed off one of his best swingback, two-seamers of the season to catch Freeman looking in the top of the fourth.

"He's getting his stuff right," Baker said. "He's the Tanner that we know."

The crowd was beginning to buzz when Roark recorded two quick outs to open the top of the fifth, with a zero still in the Braves' hit column. Johan Camargo's line drive single to right put an end to those dreams, but it didn't put a damper on his evening as a whole.

Roark's only real mistake came on a 3-2 fastball over the plate to Ozzie Albies in the top of the sixth. Albies sent that pitch soaring to left-center, and despite Michael A. Taylor's valiant effort to climb the wall, he couldn't keep the ball in the yard.

No matter, because Roark finished out the rest of the frame and departed having allowed two runs in six innings on 108 pitches for his seventh quality start in his last eight outings, more evidence he has turned a once-wayward season around.

"I learned from early on in the year: Just keep going at it, keep grinding, keep working hard, it'll turn around," he said. "I'm a firm believer in that. Confidence level was always in myself, and knowing that I'm going to give everything I got, regardless of what the scoreboard says or what everything else says. Go out there and try to do the best I can every single start."

Roark's teammates had already provided him enough run support to earn the win. They scored three runs in four innings against Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz to take a 3-0 lead.

Trea Turner's leadoff double and Jayson Werth's RBI single in the bottom of the first got the Nationals on the board.

Three innings later, Robles wowed the crowd with an RBI triple off the wall in right-center (his second comparable hit like that in two career major league starts).

"I'm always thinking third base," the 20-year-old said, "unless the coach stops me."

Robles scored moments later when Pedro Severino beat out the relay on a potential inning-ending double play grounder to short. Severino had entered the game in the bottom of the second after Jose Lobaton took a fastball off his left ankle, a direct hit that left the backup catcher writhing on the ground in pain. Though X-rays were negative, Baker said Lobaton likely will be hobbled for a couple of days.

Robles figured prominently in the Nationals' two-run sixth, as well. He beat out a slow roller to third for his second hit of the game, then advanced to second when Camargo's throw sailed down the right field line. And when Sanchez doubled down the left field line, Robles nearly caught up to Adam Lind (who was a base ahead of him at the time of the hit), crossing the plate just behind his teammate with the second of two big insurance runs made possible by the performances of a couple of promising youngsters.

"We've got a lot of talent coming up," Werth said. "This organization is really deep. As a Nats fan going forward, that's pretty good. This team should be very good for years to come."

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