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Roark's location woes continue in short start

Nats righty pulled after allowing 3 runs, 5 walks in 3 innings
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark seemed to be getting closer to ending his season-long struggles his last time out. On Sunday, after giving up six runs in the first two innings against the Reds, Roark was able to complete six frames to end on a strong note.

But on Friday night in St. Louis, any progress he had made didn't make an appearance in an 8-1 loss to the Cardinals.

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ST. LOUIS -- Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark seemed to be getting closer to ending his season-long struggles his last time out. On Sunday, after giving up six runs in the first two innings against the Reds, Roark was able to complete six frames to end on a strong note.

But on Friday night in St. Louis, any progress he had made didn't make an appearance in an 8-1 loss to the Cardinals.

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Roark was saddled with his sixth loss of the season, and his ERA increased to 5.27. He posted an 8.23 ERA in June after averaging 4.04 in May.

"I would say just falling behind every single hitter was the source of everything," Roark said after Friday's game. "Five walks, it's never good, behind every hitter, not pumping strike one to get them on the defensive is a big thing. First-pitch strikes are huge."

He struggled to find his command throughout his three innings, walking five, a career-high.

"He couldn't control [his slider]. Tonight he was either hanging it or throwing it in the dirt. And he just couldn't command," manager Dusty Baker said. "He got out of trouble in the first -- well, every inning. I don't know what to tell you. We just got to find out what's wrong because he's a lot better than this, and we'll find it. I'm sure it's very frustrating for him, and it's frustrating for us. Especially seeing him throw so many pitches in such a short period of time."

In just three innings, his second-shortest start of 2017, he threw 85 pitches. He gave up four hits and three runs in the game and struggled through lengthy at-bats.

He issued a walk and a single right at the get-go. He walked two more in the second but was able to leave four runners stranded through two innings.

That changed in the third. Opening the inning with two walks and an infield single, on which Roark attempted to make a barehanded play, Yadier Molina put up the first two runs of the game on a single up the middle. Roark faced four more batters before his night was done.

"I feel like his two-seamer is not working the way it was working before. He's big with that pitch," catcher Jose Lobaton said. "Most of the time, away from righties, he's not getting strikes. So we're behind in the count. And that's dangerous. He's been walking too many guys. I don't know, I've never seen Tanner that way."

Despite his ability to get out of the early jams, problems with locating the strike zone -- he threw just 46 strikes -- required him to use too many pitches to do so. His short start left a struggling Nationals bullpen to come into action in the fourth, with Jacob Turner giving up five runs in the first of his 3 2/3 innings.

"I talked to [Roark] after the third inning," Lobaton said, "and I said: 'Dude, I'm trying to figure out something, and it's just from here I can't see. Because I'm focusing on the pitch, and I can't see you. I feel like everything is the same, and the results are just not good right now. But I know this moment can go away one day, and you can be the same guy that you've been for the last three years.'"

Alaina Getzenberg is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis.

Washington Nationals, Tanner Roark