What to Watch for: 9.8.13

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Washington Nationals (72-69) vs. Miami Marlins (53-87)

RHP Stephen Strasburg (6-9, 2.85) vs. RHP Jacob Turner (3-5, 3.13)

If you had suggested, back in April, that a Nationals starter might throw six scoreless frames of four-hit ball in Miami in September, nobody would be surprised. If you called that starter out by name, and that name was Tanner Roark, the response would have been largely uniform.

Who?

But Roark, who has been one of the brightest spots on the Nationals staff since making his Major League debut on August 7, did exactly that Saturday night. In his first Major League start he worked ahead in the count and got quick outs, just as he had done in his nine previous outings out of the bullpen. When it was all said and done, he had lowered his ERA over his first 28.2 innings as a National to a head-turning 0.94.

When asked if Roark’s performance had earned him another turn in the rotation, Davey Johnson was quick to reply with one of his classic quips.

“He’ll make his next start,” said the Nats skipper. “I’m not that stupid.”

Roark’s dominance has been even more noticeable due to his ability to pitch ahead of batters and stay in the strike zone, leading to quick innings. On Saturday night, he needed just 71 pitches for his six frames, or 11.83 per inning pitched.

“Since he’s come up, everything he’s done has been impressive,” said Ryan Zimmerman, the offensive star of the contest, who homered in his first two at-bats and also turned in a couple defensive gems.

As for Roark himself, he carried the same quietly confident demeanor he has shown ever since entering the Nationals clubhouse back in August. And while even he has taken pause at how well the results have turned out, he’s just rolling with the punches.

“Yeah, I’m a little surprised,” he admitted of the early returns of his Major League career. “But I don’t want to change anything … Just keep attacking, going after guys. Make them swing.”

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Adam LaRoche 1B

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Wilson Ramos C

7. Tyler Moore LF

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Stephen Strasburg RHP

AT HOME ON THE ROAD

Ryan Zimmerman blasted a pair of home runs Saturday night, marking his second multi-homer game this season and the 12th of his career. Both of his multi-home run games in 2013 have come on the road, the other being a three-homer affair in Baltimore on May 29. Interestingly, 15 of Zimmerman’s 19 home runs this season (78.9%) have come away from Nationals Park, compared to 76 of his 153 career homers prior to this year (49.7%).

WERTH A LOOK

Jayson Werth collected three hits last night – his ninth three-hit performance this season – raising his batting average to .321 for the year. That currently ranks fifth in the National League, trailing only Andrew McCutchen (.322), Yadier Molina (.323), Michael Cuddyer (.328), and Chris Johnson (.332).

ATTENTION SPAN

Denard Span extended his hit streak to a career-high 18 games with a first-inning single and finished his night 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. Span has batted at a .411 (30-for-73) clip over the streak, raising his batting average from .258 to .279. The outfielder’s 18-game streak is the longest active streak in MLB and the longest by a National this season.

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