Postgame analysis of the Nats' 1-0 win over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park.
How it happened: Remember when the Nationals made Tanner Roark into a reliever?
That seemed like a curious decision at the time, and with every passing start of his, it looks more and more like a headscratcher.
As a starter this year, Roark hasn't just been good. He's been great. And that continued on Sunday when he outdueled Cy Young candidate Madison Bumgarner to the tune of seven shutout innings. Roark reached the 150-innings mark for the season and walked off the mound with a 2.88 ERA.
That's remarkable and just the continuation of a years-long trend. As a starter, Roark now holds a 3.09 ERA across 71 career starts. For a comparison, Stephen Strasburg's is 3.05 and Max Scherzer's is 3.40. The sample sizes are larger for the latter two, but still.
Roark set the tone on defense, and it was Wilson Ramos who came through at the plate. The Buffalo smoked his 18th homer of the season to opposite field in the bottom of the seventh to break a scoreless tie. That was Bumgarner's lone blemish in an otherwise dominant performance for the Giants lefty.
Ramos' homer was one of just two hits for the Nats, a team-record for fewest hits in a victory, but it was all they needed on his particular day. Shawn Kelley tossed a perfect eighth inning and Mark Melancon closed the door in the ninth in his first save situation since joining the Nats at the deadline. It was his 31st save in 34 chances overall this season.
The Nationals beat the Giants 1-0 and have now won five of their last six games.
What it means: The Nats moved to 66-45 on the year and won their season series against the Giants 4-3. That could come in handy later if these teams meet in the playoffs with identical regular season marks. The Nats would get home field advantage because of the tiebreaker.
Roark keeps rolling: Roark has now tossed seven or more shutout innings in seven starts this season, more than any other MLB pitcher. He's gone at least seven innings in 10 of his last 14 starts. In this one, Roark scattered five hits and three walks, and struck out three across 105 total pitches.
Roark worked his way out of several jams along the way. He struck out Brandon Belt with runners on the corners to end the top of the third. He got out of fourth on a Gregor Blanco groundout, again with runners on the corners. He got Buster Posey to flyout to left field to end the fifth with two men on. And he got Belt to fly out to end the seventh with two men in scoring position.
Roark also had some tremendous help from his defense. The Belt flyout in the seventh was thanks to an over-the-shoulder catch by Ben Revere at the center field wall. He did his best Willie Mays impression - against Mays' former team - and saved two runs along the way. Trea Turner made a nice tag and throw for an inning-ending double play in the sixth. And Anthony Rendon caught a ball deep in foul territory to end second while avoiding contact with Jayson Werth and Danny Espinosa, who also converged on the play.
Ramos hits No. 18: Ramos hit his third homer in his last four games and now has 10 hits and eight RBI in his last five outings. The All-Star also walked on Sunday and is batting a clean .338 on the season. Things could get interesting between him and Daniel Murphy for the NL batting title, as Murphy went hitless for the second straight game and is now batting .350 on the year. Ramos has raised his average by 11 points during his five-game surge.
Harper sits with injury: The Nats were without Bryce Harper on Sunday, as the reigning MVP sat out with neck stiffness. The Nats have an upcoming off-day, which should be good for him. We'll see if he's in the lineup on Tuesday. Chris Heisey played in his place on Sunday and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
Up next: The Nationals host the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday for a two-game interleague series. Max Scherzer (12-6, 2.87) will get the start opposite former third overall pick Trevor Bauer (7-5, 4.08).
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