One X-factor for the Washington Nationals in the second half is starting pitcher Tanner Roark
As we head into the second half of the season, I wanted to focus on one X-Factor that will be the difference to the Washington Nationals winning the NL East. When you look at the rotation, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg have been one of the best duos in baseball.
If the Washington Nationals are going to win the NL East and make a deep run in October, they need Tanner Roark to be the dependable third starter. It all stars Saturday night when Roark makes his first start of the second half against the Pittsburgh Pirates:
With Joe Ross on the disabled list to start the second half and Gio Gonzalez showing inconsistency over the last two months, Roark becomes an important figure in this rotation. During the first half of the season, Roark went 8-5 with a 3.01 ERA in 19 games (18 starts) and threw the seventh most innings of any pitcher in the National League (116.2).
At times, Roark was relied upon to be the pitcher that stopped the losing, such as his start in Milwaukee on June 26 when he threw seven shutout innings in place of Strasburg. Other highlights for Roark in the first half were his 15-strikeout performance against the Twins (April 23) and his 2.1 shutout innings out of the bullpen against the Mets on Sunday.
When you look at Roark’s short Major League career, he has been a strong second half pitcher. Two years ago, the 29-year-old right-hander went 7-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 13 second half starts. Out of those 13 starts, he gave up more than three runs in an outing just twice and pitched at least into the sixth inning in each start.
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Back in 2013, when Roark made his Major League debut, he went 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA pitching mainly out of the bullpen. When you look at Roark’s season, being back in the rotation has allowed him to keep the same routine unlike last season when he was going back-and-forth between the bullpen and the starting rotation.
Right now, Roark’s 2.8 WAR is the third highest among Washington Nationals pitchers behind Scherzer (3.6) and Strasburg (3.8), according to Baseball Reference.
Roark has been one of those pitchers that you can expect a quality outing from nearly every time he takes the mound. Plus, Roark ended his first half on a great note. He pitched at least seven innings in five of his last six starts, gave up a total of 13 runs, had 29 strikeouts, and only walked seven.
If the Washington Nationals are going to win the NL East and make that deep run, Roark is going to be essential in achieving that goal. Dusty Baker and Mike Maddux have shown a lot of trust in him and he has delivered. Even though he has value out of the bullpen as we saw Sunday, Roark’s consistency in the first half was key to this team being in first place.