Dominant Roark blanks punchless Padres
Righty needs just 105 pitches to finish off complete-game masterpiece
WASHINGTON -- Tanner Roark wasn't ready to start thinking about making history as he stood on the mound, but the notion did cross his mind during a spectacular outing on Saturday.
"I think every pitcher knows, but I wasn't trying to think about it at all," the Nationals' young starter said about his chances of throwing a perfect game. "I just wanted to keep going out there and get guys out -- and throw strikes and not try to make perfect pitches or anything like that."
Roark was practically unhittable, retiring the first 16 batters he faced en route to the first complete game of his young career, a three-hit shutout, as the Nationals cruised to a 4-0 victory over the Padres on Saturday in the 500th game at Nationals Park.
"Me and [catcher] Sandy [Leon] were on the same page, so I don't think I shook him off all game -- maybe once," said Roark, who added eight strikeouts with just one walk.
From the outset, Roark (2-0) was dominant, retiring the first three Padres hitters on nine pitches and rolling from there. San Diego catcher Rene Rivera was the only Padre to get the ball out of the infield during the first five innings, when he flied out to right in the third inning. Roark also got some help on highlight-reel plays by Anthony Rendon to remain perfect.
"I just feel confident out there on the mound and I feel strong," Roark said. "Just getting ahead of hitters is the biggest thing. Strike one is the best pitch you can throw, and that's what I try to do."
The overmatched Padres had no answer for Roark, except for Rivera, who looped a single to center, just past a stretching Danny Espinosa, to break up the perfect game with one out in the sixth inning. The crowd of 31,950 responded by giving Roark a standing ovation, as Leon came out to talk to his pitcher.
"He was working with, really, all the pieces," Leon said. "He was hitting his spots with all the pitches -- breaking ball, slider, changeup. It's nice to catch him."
The Padres' patient approach didn't work, as Roark quickly put San Diego's hitters in a hole.
"If the guy is throwing strikes and you're taking pitches, you're going to be behind in the count," Padres manager Bud Black said. "... If you're trying to make him work, you're going to be 0-1, 0-2 awfully quick. He was throwing strikes and working both sides of the plate with his fastball. We just couldn't square any balls up."
Of all the Nationals' starters, Roark might have been the last one people picked to get the team's first complete game of the season. But in nine career appearances (three starts) at Nationals Park, Roark has given up just one earned run and 19 hits in 35 innings.
"He competes and he's got the ability, certainly, to pitch at this level," Washington manager Matt Williams said. "He's got four quality pitches that he throws, all of them for strikes. He can hit, he can bunt. So he does well out there."
Roark had just one complete game on his professional ledger, in 2012 for Triple-A Syracuse, and hadn't come close in the Majors. So he was appreciative of the opportunity to finish what he started.
"It feels really good," said Roark. "It gives me confidence that I can pitch at this level and keep pitching for as long as I can. It's a good feeling and a good win. When you have the run support like we did today and the defense behind you, you get more confidence in all your pitches."
The Nationals jumped all over San Diego starter Andrew Cashner (2-3) in the first inning, although he did not get much help from his defense.
Rendon started the rally with a sharp single to left. Jayson Werth followed with a hard chopper that ate up second baseman Jedd Gyorko and was originally ruled an error, although it was later reversed.
Adam LaRoche drilled an RBI single to left and the cutoff throw was thrown away by Yonder Alonso in a misguided effort to try and nab LaRoche at first, allowing Werth to move to third. Ian Desmond followed with an opposite-field double and Espinosa tallied a sacrifice fly to give Washington a 3-0 lead.
Denard Span added an RBI single in the sixth inning, as the Nationals improved to 11-1 when scoring at least four runs.