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Nats Can’t Overcome Roark’s Early Struggles

Just like last night, the Philadelphia Phillies hit a three-run home run in the first inning, but the Washington Nationals did not have the same comeback magic tonight.

Tanner Roark turned in an absolute clunker of a start, giving up seven earned runs in four innings, while A.J. Burnett silenced the Nats (17-13) as they fell to the Phillies (14-14), 7-2.

In his first appearance after his complete-game shutout against the Padres a week ago, Roark (L, 2-1) posted the worst start of his career. He went a career-low four innings, giving up seven runs on seven hits, a walk, and five strikeouts. The early damage was done by lefties, as Ryan Howard stroked a three-run shot in the first and Cody Asche hit a solo homer in the second to put Philly up 4-0.

With Roark having trouble today, the Nats have given up three or more runs in the first inning an impossible eight times in 30 games. They are fortunate to be 2-6 in those games, even with tonight’s loss.

But the Phillies weren’t done beating up on Roark. A pair of doubles in the fourth made it 5-0, and he put on two runners in the fifth while getting no outs before he was yanked. Manager Matt Williams then made the questionable move of putting in the recently promoted Ryan Mattheus. After posting a 6.37 ERA in a challenging 2013 that saw him punch a locker and miss two months with a broken hand, he was sent to Triple A Syracuse, where he had a 5.40 ERA in 10 innings. Suffice it to say, he is not the most attractive option in the Nats’ bullpen. But Williams put him in a high-leverage situation, and he failed to deliver.

The box score will show that Mattheus gave up three hits and a walk in two scoreless innings of relief, but the walk and a hit came in the fifth to allow the two inherited runners to score, putting the Nats in a near-insurmountable 7-0 hole.

The offense was punchless against Burnett. In six innings, he limited them to one run on three hits and two walks while striking out seven. Adam LaRoche provided the Nats’ lone tally with a solo home run in the sixth. He also had a walk and one of the other two hits against Burnett with a fourth inning double. Ian Desmond contributed the other hit, knocking an infield single in the fourth.

Burnett finished the sixth on 93 pitches, and would likely have come out for the seventh if it were not for a 24-minute rain delay after the sixth. The Nats were a little more fortunate against the miserable Philly bullpen, adding a run on a Zach Walters solo homer, but could not replicate last night’s comeback against Mario Hollands, Mike Adams, and Antonio Bastardo.

Craig Stammen threw a pair of scoreless innings to keep the Phillies at seven runs despite a few hard-hit balls.

Notes

LaRoche, despite the ailing quad that saw him leave last night and tonight’s games early, was 2-for-2 with a walk today, upping his season line to an incredible .323/.422/.535. He stands alone at fourth in the NL in OBP, and ninth in OPS. Regression will come for him soon, no doubt, but boy is this ride fun while it lasts.

After his pinch-hit blast tonight, Walters is now 2-for-9 with two home runs as a pinch hitter.  With the Nats in 2014, Walters is, incredibly, 3-for-14 with three home runs and two walks. In his hilariously small sample, that’s good for a .214/.313/.857 line. You’ll stay in the bigs if all your hits are homers, kid.

About Andrew Flax

Writer for The Nats Blog

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