Tanner Roark had arguably the best start of his career yesterday, leading the team to a win over the Twins and demonstrating just how deep the Washington Nationals’ rotation can be.
As many Washington Nationals fans remember (and hope to forget), the Nationals were supposed to be one of the best teams in baseball last season. They were heavily favored to win the NL East, and many industry experts and statisticians predicted that they would be strong contenders for a World Series trophy.
A big reason behind this thinking, of course, was the fact that the team had a starting rotation that could compete with many of the best rotations in history. The powerful group of arms let by Max Scherzer, followed by Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez was supposed to dominate opposing lineups and steamroll the Nats into October and beyond.
But, as often happens in baseball, preseason expectations were far overhyped. The rotation delt with several injuries all year long and never lived up to its potential. Even without the injuries, some starters failed to perform at the level we’ve become accustomed to seeing throughout their careers. All of this and more ultimately led to the Nationals’ downfall in 2015.
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This year, things are different. The rotation doesn’t feature quite the star power that last year’s did, and it’s still hard to predict how pitchers like youngster Joe Ross, consistently inconsistent Gonzalez and back-to-the-rotation guy Tanner Roark will fare this season.
So far, though, that rotation has seen great success. All five starters have already put up dominant efforts this season, culminating in a magical start from Roark in yesterday’s win over the Twins.
Roark was on fire all day long, striking out a whopping 15 batters while allowing just two hits over seven brilliant innings. While the offense only gave him two runs of support, that was all he needed to secure his second win of the season.
Roark, who returned to the rotation after a rough year in the ‘pen in 2015, is now 2-2 on the season with a 2.63 ERA.
Yesterday’s start from Roark not only demonstrated how important he can be to this team, but it also illustrated how deep and efficient this starting rotation really is.
Yes, Roark is no Zimmermann. Neither is Ross or Gonzalez, for that matter. But when all five starters are producing at a high level and dominating opposing lineups on a near nightly basis, this rotation is very, very good. And at this point, it looks even better than last year’s.
It remains to be seen if the Nationals’ rotation (or if the team as a whole) can maintain its current level of play through the end of April and beyond. One thing’s for certain, every starter in the rotation is capable of having a lights-out performance every time they take the mound.
Last night, Tanner Roark did just that.