Apr 26, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT
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.
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