Roark goes seven, tired bullpen finishes off 3-2 win over Bucs

The back end of the Nationals’ bullpen would’ve loved a blowout win - and the respite that would accompany it - tonight. Alas, this team doesn’t enjoy many blowout wins these days, last Wednesday’s 15-2 thumping of the Giants serving as a distinct anomaly.

So it should have come as no surprise to anyone inside Nationals Park tonight when the home team carried a one-run lead into the eighth, forcing Davey Martinez to once again coax high-stress innings from his overtaxed bullpen.

Somehow, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler found a way to cobble it together and save a 3-2 victory over the Pirates. But that required some serious overtime from each right-hander.

Madson, who had been unavailable Saturday after pitching the previous two days, got through a 1-2-3 top of the eighth in his 15th appearance of the young season. Kintzler then pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his first save in his 15th appearance of the young season, his third in a row.

Where was Sean Doolittle? He was held out after pitching three days in a row for the first time in six seasons.

Tanner-Roark-throwing-white-sidebar.jpgWho’s left to pitch Tuesday night? They’ll figure that out later and simply be content to have won a one-run game for only the second time in 2018, thanks to a strong start from Tanner Roark and some clutch hits.

Thought he put some runners on base early, Roark effectively pitched his way out of the jams, inducing two double plays. And he took advantage of Matt Wieters’ arm behind the plate, the veteran catcher throwing out Gregory Polanco to end the top of the third to make him 6-for-10 throwing out basestealers this season.

The Nationals staked Roark to a 3-0 lead behind three clutch singles with men in scoring position. Wilmer Difo sent a two-out single up the middle in the bottom of the second. Roark himself singled up the middle to bring Wieters home in the bottom of the fourth. And Trea Turner followed moments later with an RBI single to left that brought Difo home.

Roark did fade a bit later on, giving up back-to-back hits with two strikes and two out in the fifth - Jameson Taillon returned the favor with a run-scoring double off the center field wall - to get the Pirates on the board. And when Corey Dickerson led off the seventh with a homer into the second deck in right field, the Nationals starter was starting to run out of gas, his pitch count approaching and then topping 100.

After a strikeout of Colin Moran, Martinez walked to the mound, with Trevor Gott ready in the bullpen. Martinez, though, let Roark remain on the mound, and the starter responded by striking out Jordy Mercer with a wicked slider to end his evening on 105 pitches and a high note.

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