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Instant analysis: Nats 4, Padres 0

Apr 26, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: In a star-studded Nationals rotation, Tanner Roark can easily be overlooked. That may not be the case much longer.

Roark tossed the game of his life this afternoon, carrying a perfect game into the sixth inning and then going the distance for his first career shutout, surrendering only three hits to the Padres in a sparkling, 105-pitch performance. The unassuming right-hander, who burst onto the scene late last summer, has become as effective as anyone else in a Nationals’ rotation that already boasts Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez.

Roark’s teammates staked him to an early lead, taking advantage of two of San Diego’s three errors, plus clutch hits from Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond to break out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. They didn’t need to do much more at the plate the rest of the day, merely sitting back and watching as Roark spun his magic to give the Nationals a near-perfect victory on a near-perfect Saturday afternoon at the ballpark.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: It may still be a surprise when a member of the Nationals delivers a hit with a runner in scoring position, but it’s not a surprise when LaRoche does it. He has been their most-consistent run-producer so far this season, so his RBI single in the bottom of the first was a nice (though unexpected) clutch hit. LaRoche is now hitting .321 with four homers and 15 RBI. Go back two years, and look at his April stats: .329 with four homers and 17 RBI. Obviously, this doesn’t guarantee he’ll wind up duplicating his Silver Slugger numbers from 2012. But he’s certainly off to a comparable start to this season.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Roark has certainly been a nice success story to date, but it might be time to acknowledge that this thing is for real and not just some small-sample-size fluke. Today’s gem was merely the latest (and best) outing by the right-hander. He was completely in control from the very start, retiring the side in the top of the first on nine pitches, then cruising along through five perfect innings on a scant 53 pitches. Rene Rivera broke up his perfect-game bid with a solid single up the middle in the sixth, but that was a mere blip along the way. Roark finished the day allowing only three singles and a walk. And get this: For his career, Roark is now 9-1 with a 1.98 ERA and a 1.040 WHIP over 86 1/3 innings. This guy is for real.

KEY STAT: Only two Washington pitchers have ever thrown a no-hitter: Walter Johnson (July 1, 1920) and Bobby Burke (August 8, 1931).

UP NEXT: The series concludes at 1:35 p.m. Sunday when Taylor Jordan tries to bounce back from three consecutive ragged starts. Veteran right-hander Ian Kennedy takes the ball for San Diego.

  1. MicheleS - Apr 26, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Awesome game by Tanner!!!

  2. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 26, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    I’m giving a standing ovation to Roark. Great performance with a shutout CG, great defense and the whole bullpen gets to rest.

    That’s the pitching trifecta!

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 26, 2014 at 3:26 PM

    Fanner Roark. I like that!!!

  4. Drew - Apr 26, 2014 at 3:28 PM

    The career ERA of 1.98 is ridiculous.

    Mark’s right. He’s not just for real. He’s unreal.

    Pretty nice return for Cristian Guzman.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Apr 26, 2014 at 4:03 PM

      +1 for Guzman indeed.

  5. Section 222 - Apr 26, 2014 at 3:31 PM

    That was impressive. I do believe Tanner has won the 5th spot.

    And have to say, Dan Kolko’s postgame interviews are a pleasure to hear. He seems actually to have thought in advance about what he wants to ask.

  6. Drew - Apr 26, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    Just noticed that, other than Leon, Taylor Jordan was the first guy to the mound to congratulate Roark.

    Classy move by the kid.

    • stoatva - Apr 26, 2014 at 5:49 PM

      Very classy. Also, may have wanted something to rub off on him. ;-)

  7. secretwasianman - Apr 26, 2014 at 3:39 PM

    Very excited about the pitching lately. Awesome job.. Hopefully we can get 5 innings out of Mr Jordan Sunday.

    • natsfan1a - Apr 26, 2014 at 3:43 PM

      If not, the bullpen is good and rested. I’m just saying.

  8. natsfan1a - Apr 26, 2014 at 3:43 PM

    That was awesome! Kinda wish I’d had tix for this game instead of tomorrow’s. I do love me some complete game shut-outs. One of my fave in-person games is one that Livo twirled at Nationals Park. If I lived closer, I’d probably have gotten myself out to the park after the first few innings. Ah, well. Bobblehead day tomorrow. :-)

    • veejh - Apr 26, 2014 at 4:17 PM

      I was at both back to back 1 hit games by Gio and JZimm last season. Those were great.

  9. David Proctor - Apr 26, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    MRI for Harper. That scares me.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Apr 26, 2014 at 3:47 PM

      x-rays are fine for breaks, MRIs are for soft-tissue (ligaments, etc.) injuries. Agree we will be in suspenders until the results come back.

    • sjberke - Apr 26, 2014 at 4:45 PM

      When someone called Nats Talk this morning and expressed concern about players sliding in head first, Phil and Mike agreed that feet first was better, but said that head first sliding was so ingrained in most players these days that not much could be done about. With the Nats losing one and perhaps two major contributors for substantial lengths of time because of head first sliding, I’m not sure that’s acceptable. You might not want to try to change habits in midseason, but at the least the law ought to be laid down next spring. I was so relieved to see Desmond sliding feet first this afternoon…

  10. veejh - Apr 26, 2014 at 4:18 PM

    Nice game from Roark.

  11. Steady Eddie - Apr 26, 2014 at 4:32 PM

    I’ve loved Roark from the time he came up, because of his great story. Lifetime minor-leaguer, looking like he was dead ended a couple of years ago, then refocusing last year and taking off from there.

    But it’s important to look at why he’s the real deal: for a pitcher without overpowering stuff, his approach is exactly what you want to see out of a starter. He generally has great command and most important, he attacks the zone from the first pitch. Then he gets batters to chase or make weak contact on his pitches with a lot of movement at the edge of the zone. Never nibbles, never a lot of walks, and the few times he gets hit hard, it’s because he doesn’t have his best command on his early attack pitches.

    Throughout his time as a starter in DC, he has been a more consistent attack the zone, low pitch count pitcher than anyone else on the staff, even slightly better at executing that approach consistently than Jordan Zimmerman. I’m not saying he’s better or even the equal at this point of JZ, but it’s not implausible that he may get there pretty soon.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 26, 2014 at 4:42 PM

      More proof velo isn’t everything. His story is a great one if he can continue his Nats Park dominance and improve on the road.

      Now remember the Padres are the worst offensive team in the NL but he did outpitch JZim and even slightly better than Stras in this series. He got excellent defense sans that play by ALR. Rendon robbed 2 for him and other players were perfectly positioned all day on defense.

      Great overall performance and a smooth win.

      • Steady Eddie - Apr 26, 2014 at 4:49 PM

        Good point about defense as it really shows how the players themselves seem determined to adjust and get past the bad stretches.

        I believe it was a couple of days ago that the entire infield came early for extra infield practice. And then today, with no fielding practice required in an early afternoon game following a night game, according to Carp and FP, the infielders came in for more fielding practice nonetheless.

        Nice to see Rendon have those two highlight reel-worthy plays after his key errors earlier this week. Yet another illustration of how lots goes on out of sight in the clubhouse we have no clue about.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 26, 2014 at 4:54 PM

        Steady Eddie, good points. I will say it every day that this is what this team was built around starting with pitching and defense. It’s showing up now.

      • Steady Eddie - Apr 26, 2014 at 4:53 PM

        No question that the Padres are have a lineup for starting pitchers to get well against, especially coming right after the Cards and Angels’ stacked lineups. But as JZ’s three-run inning in the series opener shows, there are no foregone conclusions on that even for the best pitchers. You still have to keep executing consistently.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 26, 2014 at 4:56 PM

        I think it was a 2 run inning on a 2 out hit with 3 runs total but yes, these are the teams to get pitching healthy against.

  12. ehay2k - Apr 26, 2014 at 4:33 PM

    Perfect day at the park, and we were applauding when Roark came up to bat in the 8th. The complete game is such a rarity now, I was telling my kids to remember what they just saw. The kid also likes Nationals Park, because I think I heard C&D say he has given up one earned run? That gives him a sub .500 ERA!

    • natsfan1a - Apr 26, 2014 at 4:37 PM

      Well done. We could hear y’all cheering and applauding on tv.

  13. Steady Eddie - Apr 26, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    While we’re on the subject of really good pitchers, it’s interesting to note that the really stupid narrative of “Strasburg as a delicate, fragile, potted plant who wilts under adverse weather or other conditions” seems appropriately to have faded on this thread and was nowhere to be seen during or after last nights game.

    It was cold and extremely damp at last nights game, with some chilly light rain falling in a couple of the middle innings, but it seemed to have no effect on Strasburg’s great performance.

    Just like the LOD who fly away the moment a game doesn’t have a Nats’ performance to dump on. Funny how that works. Makes you wonder a little about their claim that they really love the team and are just being appropriately critical of bad performances when virtually none of them seem to be around to exult in a solid team performance.

    • 3on2out - Apr 26, 2014 at 4:48 PM

      +++1

  14. ArVAFan - Apr 26, 2014 at 5:22 PM

    We will know that the Nats consider him equal to the Big Three when they start charging the same for his game-used balls at Nationals Authentics. Luckily, I have tickets for tomorrow so I have a chance at a game ball from today. Have to get there early to get the Bobblehead anyway.

  15. thelatencn - Apr 26, 2014 at 5:37 PM

    Mark writes of Roark, “it might be time to acknowledge that this thing is for real and not just some small-sample-size fluke.” Agreed, but what would be the critrion for such an acknolodgement? How about this? It’s no longer a small sample size when the league has had ample time to adjust to what a pitcher is doing, yet has failed to do so.

  16. #4 - Apr 26, 2014 at 5:46 PM

    Re: headfirst sliding. It’s not possible to slide feet first really when diving back to a base on a pickoff. Therefore, you can’t blame the practice for Zim’s injury. However I d agree that on normal baserunning plays it’s stupid and dangerous to slide headfirst. I banned it when I coached. I was frustrated to see Harper get injured last night whe he did it.The Nats could start fining minor leaguers if they do it. I think some organizations do. At least the guys who come uo through the farm system would then get out of the habit.

    Mick – I don’t know if you saw that Coach Buddy passed away on Palm Sunday. We had a wonderful service for him this week.

  17. unkyd59 - Apr 26, 2014 at 6:07 PM

    Hey, Mick… In no way is it my intent to poke you with a stick, in saying this… But Desi is 6 for 9 over the last two games. This is why so many of us were against giving one of our best players a few days off, when he was slumping… Good players play their way out of slumps. I can’t quote anyone specific on that, but I could swear I’ve been hearing it all my life. I know you’re thrilled Desi seems to be finding his groove… And I hope there was a Victory Corona within easy reach, after Fanner’s Masterpiece ;-)

    • therealjohnc - Apr 27, 2014 at 12:38 AM

      Mick isn’t here; he hasn’t posted since the Nats lost 4-3 Thursday. Don’t worry; as soon as the Nats hit another bump in the road he’ll be back.

  18. manassasnatsfan - Apr 26, 2014 at 6:19 PM

    Waiting for MRI RESULTS. Anyone have Rizzo’s text?

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

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WASHINGTON 55 44 --
ATLANTA 55 46 1.0
NEW YORK 48 53 8.0
MIAMI 47 52 8.5
PHILADELPHIA 43 57 12.5
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