October 31, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 128 Review: Nats erase six-run deficit then cling to lead in 9th

TANNER ROARK TOSSES 4 2/3 SCORELESS IN RELIEF TO EARN FOURTH WIN

With the Washington Nationals trailing by six after two innings, you’d have been forgiven if you turned off the t.v. or radio and went about something more fun on a Friday night. But then, you’d have missed the Nats biggest offensive inning of the season, Jayson Werth’s 19th home run of the season, and Tanner Roark’s 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief as the Nats defeated the Kansas City Royals 11-10 at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City.

It was the Nats fourth win in a row and evens their record at 64-64.

Roark, the rookie relief pitcher, was the hero. He came on for a completely ineffective Gio Gonzalez with one out in the fourth inning and cruised through the eighth, allowing just one his and one walk, striking out two in the process to earn his fourth big league win against no losses.

The comeback was necessitated by Gonzalez’ nightmare start. The left-handed veteran surrendered two first inning home runs and seven runs total in 3 1/3 innings on nine hits and three walks. He struck out just one in the effort and everything was belt-high to Royals hitters, who had a field day off him.

The Nats were down 6-0 after two innings when they started their comeback. With two outs in the frame, Anthony Rendon singled to left field off Royals starter Bruce Chen. Denard Span followed with a drive to center that got all the way to the wall for a triple, scoring Rendon from first.

In the fourth, the Nats bats exploded. Ian Desmond led off with a single but was erased by a fielder’s choice by Wilson Ramos. Only Desmond’s hard slide avoided a double play. But then, Ian LaRoche singled, followed by a Tyler Moore single to load the bases.

Rendon’s sacrifice fly for the second out of the inning scored Ramos. Span walked after a 10-pitch walk. Ryan Zimmerman walked on the ninth pitch of his at bat. Bryce Harper then delivered the big blow, a double that cleared the bases.

Louis Coleman relieved Chen at that point, but he was greeted rudely by Werth, who crushed a 3-2 pitch for his 19th home run of the season, a two-run shot that concluded the seven-run inning, the biggest scoring inning for the Nats this season.

The Royals got one back in the bottom of the fourth to end Gonzalez’ night. Alex Gordon led off with a single, then Gio walked Eric Hosmer. Salvador Perez then singled on the first pitch to plate Gordon to make it 7-7.

Washington busted out again in the seventh inning. Desmond singled to lead off and went to third on Ramos’ double. LaRoche drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. Moore single in Desmond, then Rendon reached on a second baseman Chris Getz’ bad throw to first and two more runs scored to make it 11-7.

But nothing has been easy for these Nationals and Friday night was no exception.

Drew Storen took over for Roark and immediately got in trouble. He couldn’t find the strike zone and walked Alex Gordon on five pitches. Hosmer then doubled to right putting runners at second and third, at which point Davey Johnson came out and gave Storen a quick hook in favor of Rafael Soriano, who was supposed to be unavailable due to pitching three days in a row.

The embattled closer got Salvador Perez to ground out for the first out of the inning, but a run scored. Billy Butler followed with a single. Then, former Nats outfielder Justin Maxwell delivered a drive to center that plated two more runs to cut the deficit to a single run.

Soriano then bore down and retired the next two batters in order to “earn” his 33rd save and secure victory for the Nats. But it sure wasn’t pretty.

THE GOOD: Tanner Roark. The previously unheralded prospect has given up one earned run in over 14 Major League innings, including 4 2/3 Friday night.

THE BAD: On a night the Nats scored 11 runs, Ryan Zimmerman went 0-for-3.

THE UGLY: Gio. They seemed to be checking his fingers for a blister, and he was stretching his back out as he did in his last start, but he stuck the joint up. The Nats really could have used a long outing from him with a beat-up bullpen, but he only made matters worse with his completely ineffective performance.

THE STATS: 13 hits, 7 BBs, 7 Ks. 4-for-9 with RISP, 8 LOB. E: Desmond (16, fielding), 3 DPs.

NEXT GAME: Saturday at 7:10 pm against the Royals. Jordan Zimmermann (14-7, 3.37) faces Wade Davis (6-9, 5.43).

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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