Roark pitches Nationals past Mets
WASHINGTON — Tanner Roark probably has one more start to show the Washington Nationals whether he deserves a spot in the team’s formidable postseason rotation.
But he certainly would get approval from the New York Mets.
Right-hander Roark won his third straight start and improved to 4-0 this season against the Mets as the Nationals won 4-2 on Tuesday in the first game of a three-game series. Roark (15-10), now 5-0 in his career against the Mets, is in the running for the No. 4 playoff spot in the rotation with lefty Gio Gonzalez.
“You have to keep doing your job,” said Roark, who gave up five hits and two runs in 6 1/3 innings. “You really can’t think about it.”
“He can throw multiple pitches for strikes,” manager Matt Williams said of Roark. “He doesn’t blow the radar gun up. He has four pitches to work with. That is the art of pitching.”
Williams has been impressed that all five starters are ending the season on a strong note. Deciding on a postseason rotation will not be easy.
“Those are good tough decisions,” Williams said.
Adam LaRoche hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the fifth inning as the Nationals (92-64) inched closer to securing home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs. Washington is a season-high 28 games above .500 after earning its 13th win in 16 games and fifth win in a row.
The Mets, who announced early in the day that manager Terry Collins would return in 2015, saw their three-game winning streak end. New York (76-81) fell to 3-14 this season against the Nationals.
“They beat you in so many ways,” Collins said of the balanced Nationals. “You don’t depend on one guy” with that team.
LaRoche, the veteran first baseman, told CSNWashington.com on Sunday that he does not plan to return next year, as the Nationals are expected to move former Gold Glove third baseman Ryan Zimmerman to first in 2015. LaRoche walked in the first and singled in the fourth before hitting a long homer to right against Mets starter Bartolo Colon, who allowed four runs and five hits in six innings.
The Mets cut the lead to 4-2 on a sacrifice fly in the seventh by shortstop Ruben Tejada. The flyout scored second baseman Wilmer Flores (two hits), who singled with one out and took third on a double by right fielder Curtis Granderson.
Lefty reliever Jerry Blevins, who entered the game with a 5.17 ERA, retired pinch hitter Anthony Recker with the bases loaded for the final out of the seventh.
Tyler Clippard blanked the Mets in the eighth, and Drew Storen pitched the ninth for his 10th save and his 21st consecutive scoreless appearance since Aug. 7.
LaRoche’s three-run blast in the fifth gave Washington a 4-1 lead against Colon (14-13). It was the 26th homer of the year for LaRoche, who came through after right fielder Jayson Werth drew a two-out walk.
Washington rookie center fielder Michael Taylor, who entered the game in the third, hit an RBI double past first baseman Lucas Duda to tie the game at 1-1 earlier in the inning.
The Mets took a 1-0 lead in the fifth on an RBI double by center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis. “Kirk has done a nice job for us. He really has,” Collins said.
Washington center fielder Denard Span left the game and was replaced by Taylor in the last of the third. Span made a fabulous catch on the warning track in center to rob Mets left fielder Matt den Dekker of extra bases to end the top of the third, but Span took a gingerly jog to the Washington dugout after the catch.
“I banged (my knee) pretty hard,” said Span, who most likely won’t play Wednesday. “We will see how it feels tomorrow.”
“He is a tough guy,” Roark said. “Just a little scraped knee. He has been doing it all year.”
The Tuesday game was the first home contest for the Nationals since they clinched the National League East title on Sept. 16 in Atlanta.
NOTES: The Mets announced Tuesday that GM Sandy Alderson had his contract extended through 2017 and manager Terry Collins will return for the 2015 season. ... The Mets also announced that RHP Jacob deGrom (9-6, 2.63 ERA) will not pitch the rest of the season after going 140 1/3 innings as a rookie. “I think we will have a great staff next year,” he said. ... The Mets called up INF Wilfredo Tovar from Double-A Binghamton after Sunday’s game. He hit .288 this year for Binghamton and .200 (3-for-15) for the Mets in 2013. ... The scheduled starters for Wednesday are Washington LHP Gio Gonzalez (9-10, 3.74 ERA) and Mets RHP Dillon Gee (7-8, 3.88). ... Washington 3B Anthony Rendon, who sat out Tuesday, began the day first in the National League with 110 runs. ... The Washington pitching staff has 1,233 strikeouts and only 341 walks, a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.62. That is the best mark in major league history since 1900, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The next best is 3.39 by the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies.