Injury-depleted Nationals use Roark to edge Pirates
The way the Washington Nationals have been playing, it wasn’t enough for Tanner Roark to pitch effectively into the seventh inning. He also had to drive in a run — his first since 2016 — and talk manager Dave Martinez into leaving him in to face one last hitter.
Roark (2-2) fanned Jordy Mercer to finish the seventh and helped the injury-depleted Nationals muster just enough offense to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 on Monday night and end a disappointing April with their second straight victory.
“Well, there’s a guy that’s won over 50 games since 2014,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “The guy can pitch. And he throws everything at you. He’s very unpredictable on the mound.”
Seven of Washington’s last eight games have been decided by one or two runs, and the Nationals are 2-5 in those contests. Washington left eight men on base.
“That was exciting,” Martinez said sarcastically. “We gotta start scoring runs when we can. They’re playing well, they really are, but when we have a chance to put teams away, we’ve gotta start putting them away.”
Starting pitcher Jameson Taillon (2-3) drove in the first run for the Pirates with a two-out double to deep left-center in the fifth. He worked six innings, allowing three runs on seven hits, as NL Central-leading Pittsburgh lost for the first time since his previous start. The Pirates had won five straight.
Roark allowed two runs on six hits, struck out four and induced two double-play grounders for his first win since April 2. After allowing Corey Dickerson’s homer to deep left leading off the seventh to pull the Pirates within one, Roark retired Francisco Cervelli and struck out Colin Moran before the visit from Martinez. Roark told his manager he could get Mercer out.
“I looked at [catcher Matt] Wieters, and said, ‘Can he?’” Martinez said. “And Wieters says, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘All right, it’s your guy, let’s go.’”
Batting in the fourth with runners on first and second, Roark bunted the first pitch foul. Then Taillon threw a wild pitch, allowing the runners to advance. Roark hit the next pitch up the middle to score Wieters and put the Nationals ahead 2-1, his second hit this season and his fifth career RBI.
“You usually should be relieved you see the pitcher up there, and then you give up the hit to him up the middle,” Taillon said. “He did his job, too. Not ideal, but it happens.”
Trea Turner followed with a run-scoring single, one of his three hits on the night.
Ryan Madson retired the side in the eighth and Brandon Kintzler worked the ninth for his first save in place of regular closer Sean Doolittle, who had pitched in the previous three games.