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Roark strikes out 15 in 7 innings as Nationals top Twins 2-0

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WASHINGTON (AP) Tanner Roark struck out a career-high 15 and allowed only two hits over seven innings in a dominating performance that carried the Washington Nationals past the Minnesota Twins 2-0 Saturday.

Roark and a trio of relievers combined to fan 18, the most by Washington since its arrival from Montreal in 2005.

Roark (2-2) twice struck out the side and fanned at least two strikeouts in four other innings. It was only the second time in 52 career starts that the right-hander reached double digits in strikeouts – the other was on July 6, 2014, when he fanned 11 at San Diego.

Jonathan Papelbon got three outs to complete the combined two-hitter and earn his seventh save.

Ryan Zimmerman drove in two runs and Bryce Harper had a pair of doubles for the Nationals, whose 13-4 start under new manager Dusty Baker matches the 1981 Expos and 2012 Nats for the best in franchise history.

Roark threw a career-high 121 pitches, 78 of them strikes. He walked three, got all but six outs via strikeouts and held the Twins hitless over his final five innings. The 15 Ks were five more than he totaled in his first three starts.

Blake Treinen and Oliver Perez worked the eighth and Papelbon closed.

Phil Hughes (1-3) gave up two runs and six hits in seven innings. Half the hits he allowed came in the first inning, when Washington scored all its runs.

The Twins’ lone hits were a first-inning single by Joe Mauer and double by Max Kepler in the second. The defeat dropped the Twins to an AL-worst 5-13.

Washington went up 2-0 in the first when Zimmerman hit a two-run single after Anthony Rendon singled and Harper doubled. The Nationals have outscored their opponents 24-13 in the first inning this season.

That would be the extent of Washington’s damage against Hughes, but it was enough to lift the Nationals’ record at home to 7-1, tied with Baltimore for the best in the big leagues.

LEADOFF MEN

Twins: Leadoff hitter Brian Dozier came in batting .188 with a mediocre .278 OBP. He went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and a walk.

Nationals: Manager Dusty Baker rested leadoff hitter Michael Taylor, who’s batting .161 and in a 2-for-18 funk. Asked to explain his decision to use Chris Heisey (.231, 1 RBI) at the top of the order, Baker replied, “You got any better choices?” Heisey went 0 for 4.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Twins: RHP Ervin Santana has been scratched from his scheduled start Sunday with a sore lower back, an injury that occurred during batting practice on Friday, assistant GM Rob Antony said. RHP Tyler Duffey will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to start Sunday.

Nationals: RHP Joe Ross (blister) still hopes to make his next scheduled start Tuesday. Baker, who watched Ross test the injury Friday, said, “I don’t know if he could throw a full game like that. There’s skin over it but it looks kind of like an open wound where they shaved the callus off.”

UP NEXT

Twins: Duffey went 5-1 in 10 games as a rookie last year.

Nationals: Stephen Strasburg (3-0, 1.25 ERA) seeks to go 4-0 for the first time. It will be his first career start against the Twins.

Rays’ Erik Neander named Executive of the Year

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At the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona on Monday, Rays GM Erik Neander was named the recipient of Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year Award for the 2019 season. The Yankees’ Brian Cashman was the runner-up while the Athletics’ Billy Beane and the Twins’ Derek Falvey tied for third place.

Neander has worked for the Rays since 2017 but has operated in his current role since November 2016, taking over for Matthew Silverman who was promoted to president of the Rays alongside Brian Auld.

The Rays had, by far, the lowest payroll in baseball at $53.5 million, according to USA TODAY. Neander’s peers voting him Executive of the Year on the same today the league had to curtail its awarding of a prize belt to the team that suppressed salaries the most in arbitration is… certainly interesting timing.

At any rate, Neander’s Rays went 96-66 in 2019, finishing in second place in the AL East behind the 103-59 Yankees. The Rays claimed the second AL Wild Card and defeated the A’s to earn entry into the ALDS where they lost in five games to the Astros. It was the Rays’ first playoff appearance since 2013 and their regular season win total was second-most in franchise history behind the 2008 team (97).