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Tanner Roark calls first-career playoff start 'a dream come true'

Tanner Roark calls first-career playoff start 'a dream come true'

With the Nationals already down 1-0 in their best-of-five series against the Dodgers, they’ll be leaning on their rotation’s secret weapon to help them draw even before heading to L.A.

Indeed, for as impressive as Tanner Roark’s 2016 has been, it has seemingly flown under the radar around the baseball world. He finished the regular season 16-10 with a 2.83 ERA over 210 innings of work, and yet is rarely mentioned when discussing the NL’s top arms.

However, Game 2 of the division series will give him a chance to show the nation what the Nats have already known about him in his four-year big-league career.

“It's definitely a dream come true,” Roark said before NLDS Game 1. “To get your first start in the post-season. But you've got to go out there and be confident in everything that I do, and, you know, be aggressive and keep doing what I did all during the season. Not change anything and just be myself.”

The 29-year-old right hander doesn’t have to be modest when stacking his numbers side-by-side with the NL’s best. Roark has induced the third-most double plays in baseball, and has the most starts of any starter this season of seven or more shutout innings. He may not have the electric fastball or the wipeout slider, but sinker ball has been tough for opposing hitters to square up.

“This guy, he's a horse,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He's a warrior. We feel very comfortable with him on the mound. We know that he's going to fight you every turn and every inning of the game.”

“Oh, yeah, I definitely feel Tanner has been underrated the majority of his career,” added third baseman Anthony Rendon. “He's a bulldog. I love that guy.”

It’s been a somewhat long and winding road for Roark to wind up as one of the Nats’ three best starters. Originally a player to be named later when coming over from the Minnesota Twins in 2010, Roark made his MLB-debut in 2013 as a reliever. A season later, he joined the rotation and broke out, winning 15 games and sporting a 2.85 ERA. But after the Nats signed Max Scherzer in 2015, Roark returned to the bullpen in somewhat of a nebulous role, which came with mixed results.

But the Nats was in need of a starter with Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann departing last offseason, giving Roark a shot to prove that 2014 wasn’t a fluke.

“I asked him [in spring training] ‘Are you a starter or a reliever, which one would you rather do?’ And he told me he wanted to start,” Baker said. “So I said, ‘Okay, I'm going to give you every opportunity to start.’”

The decision paid off, and Roark doesn’t appear to be relinquishing his spot in the rotation again anytime soon. Now it’s up to him to come through for the Nats when they need him most.

“If you're not nervous, you're not human, and you don't care, I feel like,” Roark said. “So for me, being nervous is a good thing. And I'm not starting till tomorrow, so just got to go out there and do my thing. Just be confident and trust my stuff.”


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Max Scherzer's bid for third no-hitter ends in heartbreak

Max Scherzer's bid for third no-hitter ends in heartbreak

Max Scherzer's bid for the third no-hitter of his big league career ended with one out in the eighth inning, and he then gave up two unearned runs as the Miami Marlins rallied to beat the Washington Nationals 2-1 Wednesday.

After backup catcher A.J. Ellis reached on an infield single for Miami's first hit, an error by first baseman Adam Lind and a hit batter loaded the bases with two outs. Scherzer threw a wild pitch that scored the tying run, and Giancarlo Stanton lined an RBI single -- the Marlins' only other hit -- to put them ahead.

Scherzer (8-5) threw no-hitters against the Pirates and Mets in 2015, and he seemed on his way to another when he began the eighth inning with a 1-0 lead.

He retired 18 in a row before Ellis hit a chopper that bounced in front of the plate and glanced off the tip of Scherzer's glove as he reached overhead for it. The ball rolled to shortstop Trea Turner, who failed in his attempt to make a barehanded pickup and rush a throw.

MORE NATS: 12-3 win over Marlins Tuesday

Official scorer Ron Jernick immediately ruled the play a hit, and Scherzer knew it. He picked up the ball and angrily flung it to the dugout -- not as a souvenir.

Washington totaled five hits against Dan Straily and three relievers. Kyle Barraclough (3-1) pitched the eighth, and A.J. Ramos worked around a two-out single in the ninth for his 10th save.

Scherzer threw a season-high 121 pitches and had 11 strikeouts, reaching double figures for the sixth game in a row, the team's longest such streak such the franchise moved to Washington for the 2005 season.

He lowered his ERA to 2.08, best in the NL. He also leads the league with 145 strikeouts.

The other no-hitter in the majors this year was achieved on the same mound by Miami's Edinson Volquez against Arizona on June 3.

RELATED: 2017 MLB Power Rankings

The crowd of 22,659 for the 12:10 p.m. start included thousands of youngsters on camp day, and they gave the game a scream-filled soundtrack.

The score was 0-0 until Washington's Ryan Raburn hit his first homer of the year in the fifth. Raburn was a late replacement for outfielder Michael A. Taylor, who was scratched because he wasn't feeling well.

That was the only run allowed by Straily, who went six innings.

Scherzer walked Christian Yelich with two out in the first and hit Derek Dietrich with a pitch with one out in the second. That was Miami's last baserunner until the eighth.

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The Nats got hot Tuesday in Miami with 12-3 win over Marlins

The Nats got hot Tuesday in Miami with 12-3 win over Marlins

Gio Gonzalez had some worrisome moments on the mound Tuesday night, including when a friend sitting in the first row behind the Washington Nationals' dugout was hit in the head by a flying bat.

"Next time in the front row everyone will be wearing a helmet," Gonzalez said.

The friend later said he was fine, and Gonzalez felt good too after pitching seven innings to beat the Miami Marlins 12-3.

Gonzalez (7-1) allowed three runs, including two on Marcell Ozuna's 19th homer , but struck out eight and won his fourth consecutive decision.

"Exactly what we needed," manager Dusty Baker said. "Gio's throwing the ball great."

He had plenty of support even before a five-run ninth. Bryce Harper started the scoring with a two-run single that extended his hitting streak to 13 games, and Daniel Murphy had two RBIs and hit his 12th homer . Stephen Drew had three hits and three RBIs, while Ryan Zimmerman drove in three runs with a double and a single.

Gonzalez, who grew up in nearby Hialeah, improved to 7-3 in 13 starts against his hometown team with an ERA of 2.19. He had a cluster of friends and relatives in attendance, and that's where Justin Bour's bat went when it slipped from his hands on a swing in the fifth inning.

"It's good to have friends here, but put them somewhere safe," Gonzalez said.

He said his pal who was hit received a souvenir later as compensation for being clubbed.

"Bour gave him a bat, which is pretty cool on his part, because we want the fans to come back," Gonzalez said.

The left-hander said it was too early to talk about the possibility of pitching in the All-Star game, which will be played in his hometown next month. His teammates are rooting for it.

"Gio has been great," Harper said. "I'm hoping he pitches like this the rest of the first half and gets the start here. It would be incredible to see."

The NL East leaders went 7 for 14 with runners in scoring position, but it was still 0-0 when Edinson Volquez (3-8) walked Michael A. Taylor and Trea Turner in the third inning, and they advanced on a double steal.

With two outs, Harper tried to bunt on the first pitch -- a curious move by the slugger -- and pushed it foul. He golfed the next pitch into center for the Nationals' first hit to put them up 2-0.

"I don't hit Volquez very well," Harper said. "If I can lay a bunt down with a guy at third and get a knock and score a run ... but it worked out."

Pitching to Harper backfired for Miami, so the next time he came to bat, when the Nationals again had a runner in scoring position, Marlins manager Don Mattingly opted for an intentional walk. Zimmerman foiled the strategy with a two-run double.

"They've got a good lineup," Mattingly said. "They put you in a box in a number of ways."

Volquez allowed a season-high six runs in 4 2/3 innings.