For all the big-money, big-name starters in the Nationals’ rotation–Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister–the team leader in both wins and ERA is a little-known 27-year-old sophomore named Tanner Roark.
Roark was drafted in the 25th round by the Rangers in 2008 and came to the Nationals in the mid-2010 trade for Cristian Guzman. He never cracked anyone’s top-100 prospect list and didn’t even debut in the majors until age 26 last season after posting an underwhelming 4.04 ERA in the minors.
And then he went 7-1 with a 1.96 ERA as a rookie and has followed it up by winning a team-high nine games with a 2.91 ERA in 19 starts this season.
Roark doesn’t have overpowering raw stuff with a fastball that averages 91 miles per hour and he’s managed just 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings, but among the 149 pitchers with at least 150 innings since the beginning of last season he ranks 19th in walk rate at 1.9 per nine innings and fifth in home run rate at 0.46 per nine innings. Throwing strikes, keeping the ball in the ballpark, and letting the defense do its job can definitely be a recipe for success.
Chase Hughes of CSNWashington.com has a good article about how Roark went from non-prospect to standout starter, with lots of quotes from his Nationals teammates. It’s a helluva story.
With his Astros trailing the Tigers 2-1, catcher Robinson Chirinos began his at-bat in the bottom of the ninth a triple shy of the cycle. He doubled in the second inning, singled in the fourth, and hit a solo homer in the seventh. Yordan Álvarez and Yuli Gurriel both struck out, leaving the Astros’ fate in the hands of Chirinos against Joe Jiménez. After working the count to 2-1, Chirinos slapped an 85 MPH slider to the gap in right-center field. A diving Travis Demeritte could not come up with the ball, but center fielder Harold Castro fired the ball back in to Gordon Beckham, who then made a perfect throw to Dawel Lugo at third base. Chirinos was tagged out for the final out of the game. No triple, no cycle. The Astros lost 2-1.
Chirinos was attempting to become the first Astro to hit for the cycle since Brandon Barnes on July 19, 2013 against the Mariners.
The Astros entered Wednesday’s game as the largest favorite in 15 seasons, according to ESPN’s David Purdum. The Astros were -500 per Caesars Sportsbook. Other sportsbooks had them at -550. So the Tigers’ win was quite the upset.
Justin Verlander went the distance in the loss. The only blemishes on his line were solo homers to Ronny Rodríguez in the fifth and John Hicks in the ninth. They were the only hits he allowed while walking none and striking out 11.