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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.

Straight-away center field will be 385 feet at London Stadium

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Marley Rivera of ESPN has a story about some of the on-field and in-game entertainment, as well as some aspects of the field conditions, for this weekend’s London Series.

The fun stuff: a mascot race, not unlike the Sausage Race at Miller Park or the President’s race at Nationals Park. The mascots for London: Winston Churchill, Freddie Mercury, Henry VIII and the Loch Ness Monster. I suppose that’s OK but, frankly, I’d go with Roger Bannister, Shakespeare, Charles Darwin and Guy Fawkes. Of course no one asks me these things.

There will also be a “Beat the Streak”-style race which had better use the theme to “Chariots of Fire” or else what the heck are we even doing here.

They’ve also taught ushers and various volunteers who will be on-site to sing “Take me out to the ballgame,” which is a pretty good idea given how important that is to baseball. As a cultural exchange, I think some major league team should start using “Vindaloo” by Fat Les during the seventh inning stretch here. It’s a banger. It also seems to capture England a bit more accurately than, say, “Downton Abbey” or “The Crown.”

That’s all good fun I suppose. But here’s some stuff that actually affects the game:

The end result will have some interesting dimensions. The field will be 330 feet down each foul line, and it will have a distance of 385 feet to center field, which will feature a 16-foot wall. Cook also said it would have an expanded, “Oakland-like” foul territory, referencing the Athletics’ Oakland Coliseum expanse.

Those dimensions are unavoidable given that the square peg that is a baseball field is being shoved into the round hole that is a soccer stadium. As Murray Cook, MLB’s senior field coordinator tells Rivera, that sort of thing, while perhaps less than ideal, is at least in keeping with baseball’s strong tradition of irregular field conditions. It will, however, be one of the shortest dead center distances in baseball history.

Oh, and then there’s this:

Protective netting was also an important issue addressed when building the ballpark, with Cook stressing that his team has implemented netting that “is the largest you’ll ever see in any major league ballpark.”

[Craig makes a mental note to bookmark this for the next time MLB says it won’t mandate extended netting in the U.S. because doing so is too difficult]