Fill-in Roark leads Nats' shutout of winless Braves
Right-hander Tanner Roark was scheduled to pitch on Thursday afternoon against the Braves, but there was a change of plans. With Stephen Strasburg out with the flu, the Nationals needed Roark to make the start a day earlier.
The change of plans didn't hurt Roark on Wednesday night, as he pitched seven shutout innings in the Nationals' 3-0 win over the winless Braves at Nationals Park.
"We gave him 24 hours to prepare, and he came through big time," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "He gave us seven innings, got our bullpen kind of back in order, and we're ready to roll."
Roark didn't have a problem pitching a day early. In fact, he was pitching on normal rest anyway because of the day off last Friday and rainout the following day.
"I still felt strong and ready to go. I was able to get a good night's sleep," Roark said. "I was locating the fastball and just executing pitches for the most part. I have to credit Willie [catcher Wilson Ramos]. He called a great game."
Matt Wisler retired 18 of the 23 Nationals batters he faced, but he also surrendered a solo homer to Stephen Drew and a two-run shot to Jayson Werth in the fourth inning. The Braves recorded just five hits and stranded seven runners en route to opening this season with an eighth straight loss.
"I thought we had good at-bats off Roark," said Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who had a pair of singles. "We had a bunch of guys on base and had a few chances there. We just needed to come up with the big hit. Unfortunately, it didn't work out well for us. They hit a few balls out of the park, and it just wasn't meant to be."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Nationals love the long ball: Washington scored all three runs on home runs in the fourth inning. On a 2-2 pitch, Drew went deep over the right-center-field wall to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead. Three batters later, Werth swung at the first pitch from Wisler and hit a two-run homer over the left-center-field fence. It was the first homer of the season for both Drew and Werth.
"You know, Stephen Drew hit a home run that got us on the board, and then J.W. got us a big, booming two-out home run. He needed and we needed it," Baker said. "Then my bullpen came through, and that was the ballgame. That was a well-played game, a quick game, which I'm sure everybody appreciates, and we've just got to keep going."
Another bad inning: Wisler retired nine of the 10 batters he faced before Drew's home run, and he retired eight of the nine batters he faced after Werth's home run. The young right-hander has made great strides since the end of last season, but with just 21 starts under his belt, he is still not a finished product. Six of the seven runs he has surrendered through his first two starts have been tallied within just two of his 13 innings.
"It was just two mistake pitches, both up in the zone," Wisler said. "I tried to go in on Stephen Drew and it just leaked back over the middle and he put a pretty good swing on it. Then to Werth, I tried to go down and away and just tried to do too much with it and left it up and he took care of it."
Roark gets out of a jam: The only time Roark was in serious trouble was in the second inning. The Braves had the bases loaded with two outs, but Wisler grounded out to end the threat. The Braves ended up going 0-for-3 against Roark with runners in scoring position.
Freeman extends struggles: After Mallex Smith notched his first career stolen base and advanced on a wild pitch that gave the Braves runners at second and third with two outs in the fifth, Freddie Freeman looked at a called third strike. Freeman went down looking again in the eighth inning to leave him with two hits, seven walks and nine strikeouts through his first 33 plate appearances.
"We've got to get him in the cage and get him right somehow," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "That's a big part of our lineup. For me, it's just a matter of time. You've seen him when he gets hot, he can carry the whole club."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Werth has hit 19 home runs against the Braves during his career. It's the most home runs he has hit against any opponent. Werth needs one more homer to reach career No. 200.
The Braves have now lost 12 straight games at Nationals Park. When they last won a road game against the Nationals on Sept. 10, 2014, Aaron Harang was the starting pitcher andMelvin Upton Jr. homered.
WHAT'S NEXT Braves:Julio Teheran will take the mound as the Braves close this four-game series on Thursday at 4:05 p.m. ET. Teheran limited the Nationals to two solo homers over six innings on Opening Day, but he lasted just four innings in Saturday's start against the Cardinals.
Nationals: With Roark pitching a day earlier, Strasburg will likely get the start Thursday afternoon at 4:05 ET. Baker said if Strasburg is not ready to pitch, Yusmeiro Petit would likely get the start.