Jun 1, 2014, 4:41 PM EST
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Coming off two blowout wins where they scored a combined 19 runs against the Rangers, one could have probably guessed all that would stop with Yu Darvish on the mound.
The Texas ace did not disappoint, tossing a gem of a game to close out this interleague series and prevent a Nationals’ sweep. Darvish finished with eight shutout innings, scattering five hits and two walks to go along with 12 strikeouts. His repertoire was exceptionally diverse, ranging his pitches from 59 miles per hour all the way up to the mid-90s.
We knew going in that Darvish was good, but less predictable was the fact Tanner Roark matched him toe-to-toe for much of the afternoon. Roark was brilliant himself, throwing seven innings of one-run ball against his former team. A solo home run in the seventh inning did Roark in, earning him the loss in an otherwise spectacular performance from the 27-year-old.
Though it was inconsequential in the game’s outcome, there was a very unusual sequence in the top of the first inning. The Rangers had runners on the corners with two outs on Roark when Alex Rios attempted to steal second. He was safe initially before he overslid the bag and was tagged out by Danny Espinosa. While Rios was running, Elvis Andrus took off from third and was originally called safe at home. Both teams ended up challenging the play: the Nationals contending Andrus touched home after the inning was over, and the Rangers saying Rios was safe. Both calls went in the favor of the Nationals as the run was taken away from Texas.
HITTING LOWLIGHT: The Nationals entered the game swinging hot bats, but they quickly went cold against Darvish. Only Denard Span – who entered the day 3-for-4 off the right-hander – had a decent offensive day with two hits. Everybody in the starting lineup besides Span struck out, and very few made solid contact all day.
Darvish struck out 10 of 15 batters at one point and retired 16 of 18 from the first inning into the sixth. Wilson Ramos, Ian Desmond and Espinosa each struck out twice against him.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Roark took advantage of a depleted Rangers lineup to put in one of the best starts of his young career. He gave up just one run on a solo homer by Leonys Martin in the bottom of the seventh. Prior to that one mistake he had tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings.
If it wasn’t Darvish pitching for the other team, Roark could have easily been the hero in a Nationals’ win. But the Rangers’ ace was just a little bit better on Sunday afternoon and took home the victory.
Despite losing, Roark continued his dominance at Nationals Park. He now holds a 1.20 ERA across 60 innings when pitching at home.
KEY STAT: Span committed his first error as a Washington National in the first inning, as a runner advanced on his misplay in center field. That was the first error for him since July 25, 2012 when he was a member of the Twins, a stretch of 237 games.
UP NEXT: The Nationals are off Monday before the Philadelphia Phillies come to town Tuesday for the first time this season. Jordan Zimmermann (3-2, 4.07) will pitch for the Nats with right-hander David Buchanon (1-0, 3.86) taking the mound for Philly.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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