Washington Nationals: Tanner Roark silences doubters in debut

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 02: Tanner Roark
ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 02: Tanner Roark /

Washington Nationals starter Tanner Roark was dominant in his season debut, limiting the Atlanta Braves to one run in seven innings, en route to a 8-1 Nats win.

Although it comes with a few questions, the Washington Nationals‘ starting rotation is among the best in the league. After a down year in 2017, some of those questions surrounded Tanner Roark.

Some spring struggles did not do anything to alleviate the doubts. However, Roark silenced his critics in his season debut on Monday night.

Following Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez, Roark was dominant. In seven innings, he limited the Braves to one run on four hits.

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Roark did not strike out many batters, as six of his 21 outs came via the strike out, but he succeeded by inducing weak contact and ground balls. Seven of his 21 outs were groundouts, while only two were flyouts.

Despite the fact that Roark was dominant, he found himself in a couple jams. For instance, the Braves had runners on second and third with no outs following a Howie Kendrick error in the fifth.

The Braves just needed to put a ball in play to score a run, but Roark escaped the jam unscathed.

Roark struck out Ryan Flaherty, made a great play on a Chris Stewart grounder, and induced an inning-ending groundout from Lane Adams. The Braves were almost guaranteed to score at least one run, but Roark performed his best Houdini impression.

In addition to Roark, Bryce Harper had a phenomenal game.

After homering in his last two at-bats in Cincinnati, Harper hit yet another bomb in the second inning in Atlanta. On the night, Harper went 1-for-2 with a homer, three runs scored, three RBI, and four walks.

Despite not getting much to hit, Harper was on a historic stretch. He reached base safely in eight consecutive at-bats, falling just short of the Nats’ team record.

It is still early and impossible to know what Harper will do in 2018, but he appears to be completely locked in to begin the year. Everyone thought he would be, since he is in a contract year, but he has gotten off to a terrific start.

Between Harper’s ability to hit for contact and power, along with his unmatched batting eye, he is resembling his 2015 self. If you recall, that is the year that he was unanimously named the National League’s Most Valuable Player at age-22.

If Harper is able to remain healthy, he may produce another historic season.

Next: What to watch as the Nats visit Atlanta

In Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez, and now Roark, the Nats’ rotation has dominated early in the year. A.J. Cole will make his season debut on Tuesday night in Atlanta with several questions surrounding him. If the offense continues its early-season tear, Cole’s performance may not matter much.