Nationals' Roark faces Braves' Teheran in series finale (Jun 14, 2017)
WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals are in a very unusual situation.
The Nationals have a comfortable lead in the National League East, and most postseason projections expect them to win the division.
But Washington has a glaring weakness in its bullpen, which had an ERA of 5.11 before Tuesday.
That puts more pressure on the starting pitcher, and that will be right-hander Tanner Roark (6-3, 3.87 ERA) on Wednesday in the series finale against the Atlanta Braves. The starter for Atlanta will be right-hander Julio Teheran (5-4, 5.08 ERA).
Washington manager Dusty Baker said he doesn't want to berate relievers when they fail late in games.
"You are dealing with different athletes in a different era," said Baker, whose team broke a four-game losing streak with a 10-5 win Tuesday. "It was more yelling and screaming" back in the 1970s.
Baker mentioned the late Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes as a type of screamer during that era.
The Washington skipper also said having younger children -- his son Darren just graduated from high school -- has helped him relate to the modern player.
Baker will try to get a strong outing from Roark, who has fanned 22 batters with just four walks in his last four starts. During that time, he averaged seven innings per start with a 2.28 ERA. He was the losing pitcher Friday as the Nationals lost 5-2 to the Texas Rangers as he gave up 11 hits and five runs (two earned) in six innings.
Roark has been impressive against the Braves since he broke into the majors with the Nationals. The University of Illinois product is 5-1 with a 1.95 ERA in 15 games, with 10 starts, against Atlanta.
Last year, he was 2-0 with a 1.77 ERA in three starts against the Braves. Roark has given up two homers to Atlanta outfielders Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis.
Teheran is also no stranger to the Nationals. He has made 15 career starts against the Nationals and is 3-4 with a 4.57 ERA.
This season, the right-hander is 0-1 with a 15.75 ERA in one start against Washington. He has been torched by Washington right fielder Bryce Harper, who is hitting 15-for-33 (.455) with seven homers against Teheran.
Being able to watch veteran pitchers such as Teheran is a plus for Atlanta lefty Sean Newcomb, who made his first start of his major league career on Saturday for the Braves.
"I am taking what I learned from spring and the last few days," Newcomb said. "There are a lot of good veterans here and they are good to watch."
Atlanta pitcher Jamie Garcia made sure to seek out Newcomb before the first outing by the rookie.
"That is one thing that has stuck out," Newcomb said.
Teheran most likely will have to deal with Washington first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who was back in the starting lineup Tuesday after he had missed three games with a back issue. Zimmerman, who hit two homers Tuesday and now has 19 this season, has two homers against Teheran and is hitting .206 (7-for-34) against him.
But left fielder Jayson Werth, who is on the disabled list with a left foot contusion, doesn't appear likely to return when he is eligible after he went on the 10-day disabled list June 5, retroactive to June 4. Werth has now missed 10 games.
"I mean, we miss Jayson," Baker said Tuesday. "Just having him not only on the field, but we miss Jayson in the clubhouse, on the bus. We miss Jayson's strength and presence. He's trying everything to get back, but like I told you, toes and hands take a while."