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Roark rediscovers himself dialing down velocity

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Roark rediscovers himself dialing down velocity

ATLANTA — It was a loss, one of seven he has suffered this season, one of 77 the Nationals collectively have endured in 2015. So Tanner Roark couldn’t exactly be all smiles in the clubhouse at Turner Field after Tuesday night’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Braves.

Roark, though, did his share of grinning, and deservedly so. Because his performance — 6 2/3 innings of 2-run, 5-hit ball — was a positive development, a much-needed one for the right-hander in his penultimate appearance of a difficult season.

“Definitely it feels very good,” he said. “Just building my confidence up, knowing I can go deep into games and get into the 100s in pitch count and still perform.”

RELATED: Zimmerman won't return from oblique strain

That’s not something Roark had done in awhile. In four previous starts since rejoining the Nationals’ rotation, he had yet to reach the sixth inning and hadn’t thrown more than 82 pitches. This time, he reached the seventh and totaled 104 pitches.

And he was effective throughout the entire appearance, making only two mistakes along the way: a 1-1 curveball to A.J. Pierzynski in the bottom of the fourth, then a 3-2 fastball to Pierzynski in the bottom of the seventh. The veteran catcher launched both over the fence, accounting for all of Atlanta’s runs on the night.

Roark and the Nationals, though, could take far more positives out of this start than negatives. Perhaps most importantly, he reminded himself he actually can be more effective when he purposely eases up on the gas pedal and doesn’t try to throw as hard as he can.

Throughout the season, much of which he has spent in the bullpen making shorter appearances, Roark has surprised everyone by dialing up his velocity, consistently hitting 95 mph with his fastball for the first time in his career. He has come to realize, though, that he’s not an overpowering pitcher, that he’s better off not throwing as hard but getting more movement and locating better down in the zone.

“Yeah, it showed tonight,” he said. “There were a couple pitches I let loose. But for the most part, I was just trying to hit my spot and stay down in the zone.

“Coming out of the bullpen for an inning or whatever, you feel great … for the most part. And you have a little extra 1-2 mph to your fastball. Of course you see that and it kind of tricks you into thinking, ‘Man, I could blow everything by them.’ But then you lose your location. Letting the ball move, using the sinker more and command down in the zone.”

It was that philosophy — and execution — that allowed Roark to win 15 games and post a 2.85 ERA as a full-time starter last season. Shuttling back and forth between roles this year, he perhaps lost his way, trying to be something he was not.

Perhaps this extended stint back in the rotation, where he wanted to be all along, could help Roark rediscover himself and head into the offseason feeling much better about his place within the organization.

“That’s his comfort zone, certainly,” manager Matt Williams said. “The way we stacked coming out of spring training, he was unfortunately in the bullpen. That’s a good thing for our team as a whole. But it doesn’t allow him to feel that rhythm as much. When he gets a chance to start, he feels it more.”

MORE NATIONALS: Pierzynski's two home runs down the Nationals

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Turner, Adams power Nats over Giants to end 4-game skid

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Turner, Adams power Nats over Giants to end 4-game skid

SAN FRANCISCO -- Trea Turner got five hits, Matt Adams homered and drove in six runs, and the Washington Nationals broke out of their offensive funk in a big way, routing the San Francisco Giants 15-2 Wednesday to end a four-game losing streak.

The Nationals had totaled just eight runs during their skid. Andrew Stevenson had two doubles, two singles and four RBIs as Washington set season highs for runs and hits (18).

Manager Dave Martinez's ballclub has been stunted by a rash of injuries this season but salvaged the final game of the three-game series at AT&T Park series to end a rough 4-5 road trip. Max Scherzer (5-1) did his part, striking out 10 in six innings.

Turner came into the game batting .232, and the leadoff man's slow start had contributed to the Nationals' struggles. He raised his batting average 35 points, tying a career high for hits in a game. He also scored twice, drove in two runs and stole his 10th base this season.

Adams matched his career best for RBIs. He singled as part of a three-run first, put the Nationals up 6-1 with a three-run homer off Jeff Samardzija (1-1) in the fourth and added a two-run single in the eighth.

The Nationals scored 14 of their 15 runs with two outs.

Scherzer earned his fourth consecutive win, all of them coming after a Washington loss. He allowed two runs and five hits, and reached double figures in strikeouts for the fourth time in six starts this season.

Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval each two hits apiece for the Giants.

Samardzija labored through a 30-pitch first inning and was done after retiring 11 batters. He gave up six runs on eight hits with three walks.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman and 2B Howie Kendrick were given the day off.

Giants: Mac Williamson was a late scratch because of neck stiffness, one day after stumbling over the bullpen pitching mound and crashing into a low fence while chasing a foul ball. ... RHP Chris Stratton was placed on the paternity list. ... RHP Roberto Gomez was called up from Triple-A Sacramento.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (2-2, 2.97 ERA) pitches against the Diamondbacks on Friday in Washington. He has yielded six earned runs and three homers over his last 13 innings.

Giants: LHP Derek Holland (0-3, 4.98) faces the Los Angeles Dodgers in the opener of a four-game series at AT&T Park on Friday night. Holland is winless in two career starts against the Dodgers.

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Williamson homers again, Giants top Nationals 4-3

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Williamson homers again, Giants top Nationals 4-3

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mac Williamson had to dust himself off after crashing into a low padded wall near the stands in left field while chasing a foul ball.

More frustrated than hurt, Williamson took it out on Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark a few moments later after undergoing a series of concussion tests in the dugout.

Williamson homered for the second straight night and third in five games, hitting a tiebreaking shot in the sixth inning to lead San Francisco to a 4-3 victory over Washington on Tuesday night.

"I got pretty lucky," Williamson said. "I felt fine then and I feel fine now. I'm sure once the adrenalin wears off later tonight, tomorrow we'll see how the body feels. I'm sure I'll be a little sore."

Brandon Belt hit his fifth home run in six games, Joe Panik added three hits and scored twice, and the Giants won their third straight and fourth in the last five.

One night after hitting a 464-foot homer in the series opener, Williamson hit a first-pitch solo shot to center off Roark with two outs in the sixth inning that bounced off the top of the wall and broke a 3-all tie. It wasn't as far as Monday's clout -- this one went 423 feet -- but was just as pivotal for the Giants.

"We've talked about what a shot in the arm he's been and he's more than that," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He came through again tonight. Good for him because he's worked hard at it."

Williamson's deciding home run came one inning after he stumbled over the bullpen mound in foul territory and crashed into a low wall near the stands while trying to chase down Bryce Harper's foul ball. Williamson stayed down briefly as team trainers rushed out before getting to his feet.

"I tried to roll my neck a little bit and my head down a little bit when I started going down," Williamson said. "I think that helped break my fall. I was just a little frustrated I didn't come up with the play. I had it in my glove and it came out."

Belt hit a two-run shot off Roark (1-2) in the third.

Michael Taylor had a three-run homer for Washington, which has lost four straight and 14 of 20 since opening the season 4-0.

"It seems like that sixth inning's been biting us in the rear as of late," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We're swinging the bats. We just can't get the big hit with people on base."

Reyes Moronta (1-0) retired six batters for his first career win. Sam Dyson pitched one inning and Hunter Strickland worked the ninth for his fifth save.

The Giants got a run off Roark in the first but left the bases loaded when Evan Longoria struck out looking to end the inning. Belt homered on a 3-2 pitch from Roark in the second to make it 3-0.

Washington tied it on Taylor's three-run homer off starter Ty Blach in the third. Ryan Zimmerman walked and Moises Sierra singled before Taylor's deep drive into the right-field stands.

Roark went into the game 6-0 in seven career games against San Francisco but couldn't find a rhythm this time. He allowed four runs on six hits, walked two and hit a batter and threw a pair of wild pitches.

WHERE DID IT GO?

Panik hit a soft comebacker to Roark in the fifth that glanced off the pitcher's glove then bounced up on the top of his cap before falling to the turf. Roark initially couldn't locate the ball but found it in time to throw to first for the out.

AILING BLACH

Blach allowed three runs and four hits in five innings. After the game, Bochy said the left-hander suffered from food poisoning last week and was given an IV on Monday. "That was a really gutty effort that he gave us," Bochy said.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: Placed RHP Shawn Kelley on the 10-disabled list with ulnar nerve irritation in his right elbow. Infielder/outfielder Matt Reynolds was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse and outfielder Rafael Bautista and infielder Adrian Sanchez were called up.

UP NEXT

Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (4-1, 1.36 ERA) and Giants RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-0, 0.00) take to the mound for the series finale at AT&T Park on Wednesday. Samardzija is making his second start after beginning the season on the disabled list.