PHILADELPHIA — Washington Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark chalked up his latest outing as a learning experience for a young pitcher.
Roark has the poorest start of his two-year career, giving up homers to Ryan Howard and Cody Asche, as the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Nationals 7-2 on Saturday night.
“I didn’t have command of my fastball and it’s my bread and butter pitch,” Roark said. “I also left some balls up. You live and learn.”
Roark (2-1) allowed seven runs and seven hits in four-plus innings.
The runs and innings were career-worsts for Roark, who was making his 11th major league start.
“I know he can do better,” catcher Jose Lobaton said. “He left too much in the middle. Just one of those days.”
Howard started the trouble for Roark by hitting an opposite-field, three-run homer in the first. The home run snapped Roark’s scoreless streak at 18 innings.
“He was great last time; tonight not so good,” Washington manager Matt Williams said. “His ball was flat and his breaking ball was up in the zone. It happens.”
Adam LaRoche and Zach Walters homered for Washington.
Jimmy Rollins had four hits and Marlon Byrd doubled and drove in two runs for Philadelphia. The Phillies won for just the third time in 11 games against the Nationals.
“Good offense up and down the lineup, good starting pitching and good bullpen,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. “Real good combination.”
The game was delayed for 24 minutes because of heavy rain, lightning and thunder after the sixth inning. A.J. Burnett didn’t return after the weather cleared, having thrown 93 pitches.
Burnett (2-1) gave up one run, three hits and two walks. The right-hander had seven strikeouts to up his career total to 2,215, moving past Jim Palmer into 52nd all-time.
“I do take pride in my strikeouts so that’s pretty cool,” he said.
The 37-year-old has relied on precise control, more than power, to accumulate strikeouts in the latter stages of his career.
“I used to do that,” Burnett said of being a power pitcher. “I’m old now so I’ve got to try to pitch. I’ve had the good hook through my career and being able to change the angle on it has been big. A couple of years ago, I began throwing the two-seamer (fastball) and it’s been big for me.”
And he has been doing it lately while battling a hernia. He has a 0.98 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings since the injury was diagnosed four starts ago.
“It’s there,” Burnett said of the pain. “It bugged me all day and the next few days it’s gone. It comes and goes and it’s something I have to deal with.”
Said Sandberg, “He’s just a battler and gets after it.”
Asche connected for a solo shot in the second to make it 4-0. Carlos Ruiz’s RBI double in the fourth and Byrd’s two-run single in the fifth gave Philadelphia a 7-0 lead.
LaRoche homered in the sixth. He continued to have success off Burnett, raising his average to .400 (10 for 25) with two homers and six RBIs against the right-hander.
LaRoche, who has been slowed by a quadriceps injury, was lifted after hitting the homer.
Walters, pinch-hitting in the seventh, homered off Mario Hollands with two outs. All three of the rookie’s hits this season are homers.
But the Nationals, who have come back in nine of their 17 wins, couldn’t get any closer.
“We’ve been coming back a lot but over the course of a season, you can’t expect to keep doing it,” Williams said.
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