Roark’s troubles on mound continue in 6-2 loss to Reds
Washington Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark had five days to mentally flush away any lingering doubt from his last two starts — giving up six runs to the Miami Marlins on June 19 and seven runs to the Atlanta Braves on June 14.
Roark’s struggles were amplified when New York Mets analyst Keith Hernandez was caught last week on a hot mic saying the pitcher was “getting his tits lit” lately.
From just his second pitch in the Nationals’ 6-2 loss Sunday to the Cincinnati Reds, it was apparent Roark’s troubles on the mound weren’t going away anytime soon.
A two-seam fastball on the inside of the plate to Reds lead off hitter Billy Hamilton led to a double and spiraled into a five earned-run inning for Roark.
Roark (6-5, 5.15 ERA) got out of the first after a 40-pitch inning and followed up in the second by giving up a home run to Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett.
But unlike his 22⁄3 innings against the Marlins, which was the shortest start of his career, Roark was allowed to work through the damage. If Roark is going to clear the hurdles in front of him, it was best for him to work through it.
Manager Dusty Baker pulled Roark after the sixth inning. The 30-year-old pitcher spent the innings after the second trying to find his rhythm and didn’t give up a run. Roark finished with 116 pitches, allowing nine hits and striking out seven.
“I felt like I was making my pitches,” Roark said. “Sometimes stuff like that happens. You can’t get overwhelmed or mad about it. Just tip your cap and keep going out there. I was happy to stay out there as long as I did and finish the game.”
There’s no easy answer as to why Roark, who had just a 2.83 ERA and was fifth in the National League in wins last year, entered Sunday’s game with a 8.02 ERA in June.
Perhaps more troubling for the Nationals, there’s no easy solution other than to let Roark fix it on the field.
Roark has been trying to slow his throwing motion on the
mound to better maintain control and command of his pitches. And despite the rocky start, he said he felt like all four pitches were working against the Reds.
“I think in the windup I was a lot slower and not trying to throw the ball too quickly,” Roark said. “Cause when that happens, your arm and legs are behind and everything’s elevated. I’ll build off this one and keep chugging along.”
Baker said Roark pitched “better than the score indicated.” But the Reds were still able to take advantage.
“When you don’t have your pinpoint control, his comeback fastball, especially against lefties on the inside, the slider away, it’s frustrating for him and frustrating for us, more for him, because how close he is getting his stuff together, especially when you have two strikes,” Baker said.
Offensively, the Nationals had a quiet outing a day after scoring 18 in Saturday’s win against the Reds. Centerfielder Michael A. Taylor hit a two-shot blast in the fourth off Reds starting pitcher Scott Feldman.
It was Taylor’s 11th homer of the year. “We fought the whole time,” Taylor said. “We did have some chances. You’re not going to cash in every run you have on base. He’s making good pitches. He threw a good ball game today. I think we fought all the way to the end. That’s all you can ask for.”
Baker elected to rest first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and catcher Matt Wieters before the game, although Zimmerman made an appearance in the ninth on a double switch.
The Nationals (45-30) will now face the defending champions Chicago Cubs in a four-game homestand that starts Monday at 7:05 p.m.
Washington Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark gave up five runs in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday. He was relieved in the sixth inning.
The Nationals’ Brian Goodwin is tagged out at home plate by Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart in the fifth inning of a 6-2 loss.