KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On a night when just about everybody who stepped onto the mound at Kauffman Stadium saw their pitches rocketing toward the outfield, the Nationals‘ Tanner Roark proved to be the exception.
The rookie reliever shut down the Kansas City Royals over the critical middle innings Friday night, emboldening his team after it rallied from a six-run hole. Jayson Werth’s two-run homer and a terrific catch by Bryce Harper helped sew up Washington’s 11-10 victory.
“I knew it was going to be a long one out there,” said Roark, who allowed just one hit and one walk over 4 2/3 innings in relief of starter Gio Gonzalez. “I know I’m repetitive, but just kept attacking, kept pounding the zone and kept going after guys.”
Roark managed to get the Nationals to the ninth, but the rest of their bullpen ran into trouble. Justin Maxwell’s two-run single off Rafael Soriano got the Royals within 11-10, but the Washington closer induced a pair of fly balls to end the game.
The first flyout came on a dramatic sliding catch by Harper in right on a blooper by Emilio Bonifacio. The second came on the first pitch to Alcides Escobar, giving Soriano his 33rd save.
“You have to catch that ball in that situation,” Harper said. “It was a huge play.”
Denard Span, Ryan Zimmerman, Tyler Moore and Anthony Rendon also had RBIs as the Nationals piled up 11 runs for the second time in three games — they beat the Cubs 11-6 on Tuesday night.
Just like in that one, Roark (4-0) earned the win with some sublime relief pitching.
“Unbelievable job. He really hit his spots,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “He made great pitches. I can’t say enough about him.”
Bruce Chen (5-2) was tagged for the second straight time for Kansas City. He allowed seven runs and six hits with five walks in 3 2-3 innings, his shortest outing of the year.
Maxwell and Eric Hosmer each homered and drove in three runs for the Royals, who have lost six straight. Salvador Perez drove in a pair of runs, and Alex Gordon added three hits.
“It’s a game of breaks and we’re getting the bad breaks,” the Royals‘ Billy Butler said. “It’s good to see the bats come out. The way things are going right now the breaks are coming and we’re falling on the wrong side. The pitchers have been great all year. This is going to happen. The starters and the whole staff has been great all year. You can’t blame them.”
Royals manager Ned Yost convened a closed-door meeting before the game in the hopes of igniting an offense that scored five runs in a three-game sweep by the last-place White Sox.
It looks as if the message worked.