WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Nationals need starting pitchers beyond Max Scherzer to excel if they’re going to make a run at the Phillies and Braves in the NL East.
Count Tanner Roark in.
Matt Wieters homered to back Roark, who went seven innings to win his third straight start, and the Nationals defeated the Cincinnati Reds 2-1 on Sunday.
The Nationals took three of four from the Reds and have won eight of 11 overall with the second-place Braves coming to town for a four-game series beginning Tuesday.
“They’re fighting, they’re hitting, they’re pitching. They’re doing everything right,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said of his team. “So, let’s keep it going.”
Roark (6-12) allowed a run on seven singles and got a nice ovation when he made a diving stop on Billy Hamilton’s comebacker to end the seventh.
Leading 2-0, Roark allowed four straight singles to open the fourth with Mason William’s hit pulling the Reds within 2-1. Roark then retired Tucker Barnhart on a pop to short, struck out Brandon Dixon and got Castillo on a fly to right.
“It’s easy to get in your own head in that spot,” Roark said. “You’ve just got to continue to grind and make your pitches and not give in.”
In his last three outings, Roark has allowed two earned runs in 22 innings (0.82 ERA) with 20 strikeouts and a walk after going more than a month-and-a-half without a win.
“He’s definitely got confidence right now,” Martinez said. “For him, doing what he’s doing right now, we need that.”
Bryce Harper had two hits including an RBI double and is batting .367 since the All-Star break.
Kelvin Herrera worked the ninth for his third Washington save.
There was no carryover from Saturday night’s game — in which Harper and Joey Votto were hit by pitches — until the seventh when Michael Lorenzen’s fastball sailed behind Washington’s Adam Eaton with two outs and Eaton glared at the mound.
Harper started in center Sunday while Votto did not start but was called out on strikes as a pinch hitter to end the game.
Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo (6-9) allowed two runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings.
The Braves managed just one hit against Roark after the fourth.
“He’s not blowing you away the way Scherzer can,” Reds manager Jim Riggleman said, “but he’s just a guy who knows what he’s doing out there and keeps mixing it up and had us off balance quite a bit during the day.
Wieters made it 1-0 in the second inning when he sent a 2-0 Castillo fastball into the second deck in right and Harper’s third-inning double made it 2-0.
Votto, visibly angry after getting hit by Ryan Madson, didn’t speak with reporters following Saturday’s game. Asked Sunday morning if Madson’s pitch that hit him was intentional, he responded: “I have no idea. My reaction kind of falls in line with that. I reacted. I had no idea at the time when I reacted, and I still don’t, now.”
Reds: Riggleman said Votto’s absence Sunday was not due to getting hit. “Just basically normal aches and pains,” he said. “It’s deep into the season and three games in two days, day game after night game, just kind of at the point today, this would be a day off.” Votto demurred: “I want to play every day. I’d like to play every inning of every game all year long.”
Nationals: SS Trea Turner (0 for 9 in Saturday’s doubleheader) was not in in the starting lineup for just the fourth time this season. He was intentionally walked as a pinch hitter in the eighth.
Reds: RHP Homer Bailey (1-8, 5.87) pitches the opener of the three-game series against the Mets Monday in New York. He’s 1-5 with a 7.22 ERA in seven starts versus New York.
Nationals: RHP Jefry Rodriguez (0-1, 6.86) and RHP Max Scherzer (15-5, 2.33) will pitch in a day-night double-header that opens a four-game series against the visiting Braves.