Tanner Roark was told his first start of the season would come a day early just a few hours before game time. On Thursday, the day before his second, he learned he might be used in a relief role to aid a burdened bullpen.
That didn’t happen, and Washington’s No. 4 starter can now pitch as scheduled Friday night when the Nationals go for a fifth straight win in the series opener against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
"I go with the flow. Whatever they tell me to do, I’m here," Roark told the team’s official website after his first start. "They want me to pitch whenever, I’ll pitch then. This is basically up to them. I just get the ball and throw it."
Roark (1-0, 3.00 ERA) tossed six innings of two-run ball April 3 in an 8-2 win over the New York Mets, picking up where he left off after joining the big-league club Aug. 7. The right-hander went 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA in split duty between the bullpen and rotation.
Some of his best work came against the Braves. In two relief appearances and a start, Roark cruised through 13 scoreless innings while yielding just four hits and two walks with 12 strikeouts.
He’ll now try to follow Stephen Strasburg’s strong performance Thursday, which paced a 7-1 home win to complete a three-game sweep of Miami.
Ian Desmond’s grand slam broke the game open during a five-run eighth inning. Jason Werth also homered and has seven RBIs in two games, while Anthony Rendon extended his hitting streak to 11 games dating to last season. He’s batting .412 to start 2014.
Washington scored 22 runs in the series and is averaging 5.4, something it’ll try to carry over to its second series with the Braves. Atlanta (5-4) took two of three in last weekend’s set in Washington after beating the Nationals in 13 of 19 a season ago.
"You play 162 games, and it seems like every year, it comes down to the last couple of games," Werth told the team’s official website. "You can’t take any of these games for granted for sure. It is early, but against the division rival – a top notch team like the Braves – you have to come out and play your best ball."
That may need to happen against Atlanta’s Julio Teheran (1-1, 2.77 ERA), who allowed two runs on three hits and four walks in Saturday’s 6-2 victory over the Nationals.
The right-hander has won his last three starts against Washington and is 3-1 with a 2.92 ERA in six career games against the division foe.
The Braves’ staff took a small step back in Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the Mets as David Hale allowed four runs – three earned – and lasted just 4 1-3 innings. It was the first time an Atlanta starter had allowed over two runs this season.
Justin Upton went 3 for 4 with two home runs and his first three RBIs, while Freddie Freeman remained hot with a 2-for-4 night.
"Tonight I was just comfortable," Upton said. "The only thing I can do is try to take that same exact feel to tomorrow night and the next day and try to make something of it."
Freeman is batting .455 since the start of the series in Washington.
Bryce Harper is 5 for 13 with two home runs off of Teheran.
Upton, Chris Johnson, Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Evan Gattis and Jason Heyward are a combined 0 for 23 against Roark.
Simmons was replaced at shortstop in the starting lineup Thursday by Ramiro Pena due to a jammed right wrist and is considered day to day.