WASHINGTON — Nationals starting pitcher Tanner Roark, who will start Game 2 of the National League Division Series Saturday against the Dodgers, heaped praise on pitching coach Mike Maddux for giving him the mental edge he’ll need for the postseason.
Roark, who went 16-10 with a 2.83 ERA and a career high in strikeouts with 172 in 2016, told Chad Dukes and Chris Russell of 106.7 The Fan on Thursday that Maddux, in his first season in Washington, has “brought on a huge part of the mental aspect of the game.”
“Just convicting and executing every single pitch that you throw out there,” Roark said. “I mean, you take one pitch off and it could be a 3-nothing ball game, and you’re throwing a great game, but you take one pitch off and now you’ve got the loss. So he’s very big on executing and convicting and being 100 percent sure that that’s the pitch you want to throw every single time.”
Asked if there were any major differences in how current manager Dusty Baker has prepared this Nationals club for the postseason and former manager Matt Williams prepared the Nats two years ago, Roark said, “I just think it’s a little more detailed.”
Asked to expound on his answer: “I don’t know. Scouting reports and just the meetings.”
“I mean meetings aren’t, we don’t have that many meetings,” he said. “But when we do, it’s a good, positive, you know, go out there, and there’s all these guys in here that’s played in the big leagues for a long time and they’ve been around the league, and they’ve been to World Series, won World Series, so they give their input on everything. We just got to go out there and have some fun and play hard.”
Roark was also asked about the importance of home-field advantage in the postseason. The Nationals earned that advantage over the Dodgers by virtue of finishing the regular season with four more wins. As a result, they’ll play Games 1 and 2 — and Game 5, if needed — at Nats Park.
“It’s extremely important,” Roark said. “We feed off that kind of stuff. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the first inning tomorrow and Max has a guy 0-2 on the first hitter and everybody’s up on their feet cheering and going crazy.”
“We feed off that. The pitchers feed off that. Everybody feeds off that,” he continued. “And it’s great knowing that you have that kind of support behind your back and you’re not just the only ones out there, you know? It’s great to have that feeling behind you. It gives you an extra adrenaline rush and keeps you going even longer.”
As the Game 2 starter, Roark won’t get the chance to pitch in LA, though he would have reveled in that opportunity as well.
“It’s obviously great to have the support of 42,000 fans at home,” he said. “But also having a sellout crowd back in LA, too. I love to pitch in front of the hype and all that stuff like that and pitch in front of everybody. It doesn’t matter. It’s either or.”