Washington Nationals: 5 to watch in interleague series with Mariners
By Ricky Keeler
One of the surprises for the Washington Nationals this year has been the inconsistency of Tanner Roark. In the past, Roark has shown consistent command of the strike zone. But, that has not been the case so far in 2017.
In his last start against the Pirates on May 18, Roark needed 114 pitches just to finish five innings. He gave up seven runs on eight hits, walked four (tied for season high) and struck out three in the loss. The right-hander is 0-2 in his last four starts with a 6.23 ERA.
Right now, Roark is averaging 106.3 pitches per start, which isn’t a surprise when you consider how bad the bullpen has been this year. But, he has walked multiple batters in six straight starts and has three or more walks in five of them.
In an article written by Mark Zuckerman of MASN Sports last week, he talked to Roark’s catcher, Matt Wieters, and he told him about Roark’s struggles when he gets ahead of hitters:
"“We’ve just thrown a few pitches that are non-competitive, to where it hasn’t really made guys get aggressive on him. Because when hitters get aggressive on him, that’s when you can take the ball off the plate and move the ball and get some early outs. He’s just a little bit off right now, but he’ll figure it out.”"
If you look closely at that last start, he did throw 17 first pitch strikes to the 27 batters he faced, but yet only threw 66 strikesfor that entire game. The key for Roark has got to be to throw the ball down in the zone to get groundball outs and to adjust to the strike zone as the game goes on.
One hitter to watch against Roark tomorrow night is shortstop Jean Segura, who is 5-for-11 against him with a double, a home run, and two RBI’s. If Roark can navigate how to keep Segura off the bases, he has a good chance to bounce back and finally pick up a win in May.