Tanner Roark leaves a lasting impression in final start

September 29, 2013

Tanner Roark closed with a flourish.(Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Ever since the Nationals started climbing out of the hole they dug for themselves, Davey Johnson said he thought 90 wins would get the Nationals into the postseason. It turned out he was right. The Cincinnati Reds lost their fifth straight game today, finalizing their record at 90-72. Ninety wins would have earned the Nationals at least one more day.

In the end, the Nationals finished 86-76 and missed postseason by four games after a 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks today. Pitching with a lineup of rookies, call-ups and reserves, Tanner Roark put the Nationals in position to win with seven one-run innings. It only served as another strong audition for the Nationals’ 2014 rotation after Ryan Mattheus yielded two runs in the eighth.

In terms of competition and not managerial send-offs, the story was Roark, the 26-year-old right-hander who came out of nowhere since his promotion Aug. 9. Roark went 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA over 53 2/3 innings, striking out 40 and walking 11.

“That makes me look forward to next season and seeing what happens next season and what I can bring to the table and hopefully be fighting for a rotation spot,” Roark said. “It feels good to finish the season strong and hopefully keep it going next year.

“I feel I can play up here for sure. But you never know what’s going to happen. Just workout in the offseason, do my best and come back ready to go in spring training.”

Davey Johnson will not have final say in the Nationals’ roster next season, but if anyone asks, he’ll tell them Roark deserves a long look.

“Every time he’s gone out there, I’ve liked his work,” Johnson said. “He was outstanding. That’s a good-hitting ball club. He makes his pitches. He’s unfazed. If we boot a ball behind him, he goes right after them. He’s got a heck of a shot next year of making this club.”

The highlight of Roark’s final start came in the seventh. The Diamondbacks loaded the bases with one out in the seventh inning after an error on Anthony Rendon. Roark struck out Tuffy Gosewich looking. All the Nationals’ regulars had the day off, and they all clambered to the top step of the dugout. Wil Nieves grounded out.

Roark slapped his glove and walked off the mound. The dugout erupted, and the Nationals’ starters – Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth, Denard Span, all the rest – rushed to high-five Roark as he came off the field. That was a neat moment.

“I respect the guys who sit on the bench and watch us play and root us on every single day,” Desmond said. “The least we could do was be out there watching them. Tanner and [Jhonatan] Solano did a great job right there. It was cheer-worthy. That was pretty incredible. They ran a pretty good team out there today and we did a pretty good job holding them to three.”

Adam Kilgore covers the Nationals for The Washington Post.
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Adam Kilgore · September 29, 2013

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