Roark's two-seamer baffles Brewers' batters

Nats righty K's 10, on a roll as regular season winds down

Roark's two-seamer baffles Brewers' batters

MILWAUKEE -- Right-hander Tanner Roark delivered a vintage performance in Friday's 1-0 loss to the Brewers, the kind the Nationals were so accustomed to seeing last season. He flummoxed Milwaukee's offense with a nasty two-seam fastball that dived in and out of the strike zone en route to 10 strikeouts in seven innings.

He hung a breaking ball in the first inning that Neil Walker deposited into the seats for a solo homer. That was the lone blemish on an otherwise encouraging outing.

Roark got 21 called strikes on his two-seam fastball, the most on his two-seamer all season. His previous high was 16 on May 24. In fact, he had one of the most effective two-seamers of his career. Roark induced the second-most called strikes on his two-seamer, trailing only his start on June 6, 2014, when the Padres watched as 22 two-seamers were called strikes as he fanned 11 in eight scoreless innings.

Baker discusses the 1-0 loss

The two-seam fastball has been such an important weapon for Roark, although he has struggled with it at times. Entering Friday's game, Roark had the lowest called-strike percentage on two-seamers in his career in 2017 at 19.5 percent. In 2016, that number was 22.7 percent.

"It feels a lot better," Roark said. "Especially coupling with the four-seamer in to lefties and away to righties as well. Just keep them guessing and thinking that it's a two-seamer when it's a four-seamer and vice versa. Staying behind it, staying on top of it and just following through and trusting that it's going to be there to move."

That recipe lead to Roark's second double-digit strikeout performance this season and fourth of his career. He has been on a roll during his past three starts, with 26 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.

"We like what we saw from him tonight and what we've seen from him lately," right fielder Jayson Werth said. "He's coming into form coming down the stretch, and that's where we need him most."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.