WASHINGTON — Right-handed pitcher Tanner Roark burst upon the major league scene in 2014 as he won 15 games as a member of the Washington Nationals starting rotation.
Last year he spent most of the year in the bullpen as the team signed Max Scherzer to a free agent contract prior to the 2015 campaign.
Roark returned to the rotation this year and on Wednesday afternoon he will have a chance to tie a career high as he goes for his 15th win of the year against the New York Mets. He was drafted in the 25th round out of the University of Illinois by the Texas Rangers in 2008 and traded to Washington two years later.
“He went from being a 15-game winner to going to the bullpen,” said Clint Robinson, who knows the feeling as backup first baseman to Ryan Zimmerman. “As a professional you kind of want to be at the highest level. I know it had to be tough for him (in 2015). He has been a rock for us all year.”
Roark has a 1.88 ERA in his career against the Mets but he has never beaten them. New York is the only divisional opponent he has never beaten. He has thrown 186 1/3 innings this year; he went 198 2/3 in 2014.
“We are glad to have him. Tanner is one of those guys that grits his teeth and gets the job done,” Robinson said.
Fellow right-hander Robert Gsellman of the Mets will start on Wednesday in Washington. He began the season with Double-A Binghamton of the Eastern League. The California native got his first win against the Nationals at home Sept. 3 as he went six innings and gave up one run on six hits.
The Mets are now nine games behind the first-place Nationals in the National League East but are very much in the wild card hunt after an exciting 4-3 win in 10 innings on Tuesday to the Nationals.
New York will got for its seventh straight series win Wednesday.
“We have a chance to win tomorrow,” Mets manager Terry Collins said after rookie T.J. Rivera hit his first career homer, in the 10th, to win the game Tuesday.
The Nationals had won their last five games decided by a run.
“We are not giving up whatsoever. We are right there. It is all about getting the wild card spot,” said Josh Edgin, a reliever for the Mets. “Maybe we will catch the Nats. We are definitely pushing for the wild card. Maybe we will meet (the Nationals) in the playoffs.”
Edgin is back with the Mets after missing out on the 2015 season and the World Series berth. Washington won the East title in 2014.
“They are the top of our division right now,” Edgin said of the Nationals. “We have to try and win every game. We are trying to get that wild card. Unless something drastic happens that is what we are shooting for.”
With a large lead the Nationals will try to fine tune their lineup down the stretch. And that means trying to get first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and catcher Wilson Ramos out of extended hitting slumps.
Zimmerman is 4-for-28 on the current homestand and 9-for-57 in his last 16 games.
Ramos is 5-for-23 on the homestand and 10-for-57 in his last 16 games.
“Nobody takes it well. It happens,” manager Dusty Baker said of slumps. “I have to play him enough to keep his confidence up. We need him. I think the guys are pulling for him harder than anybody on the team.”
Baker hopes Zimmerman can get hot down the stretch and in the playoffs.
“A couple of weeks is all we need. Confidence is a big key. He is certainly not old. He is not overweight,” Baker said.
Roark was the losing pitcher Sept. 3 in New York in a 3-1 setback to the Mets and Gsellman. In his previous start Roark went six innings and allowed one run on six hits and two walks with eight strikeouts against the Philadelphia Phillies while he did not figure in the decision on Friday.