Déjà Vu all over again for Nats, Roark versus Cubs

Déjà Vu all over again for Nats, Roark versus Cubs
July 4, 2014, 4:30 pm
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(Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

The calendar said Independence Day. For those familiar with recent and longer-term history, the Nationals 7-2 loss to the Cubs felt more like Groundhog Day.

The déjà vu vibe especially was true when looking at those on the mound.

Tanner Roark (7-6) lost his second straight start and in turn played a part in ending Washington's season-high five-game winning streak. Both of Roark's losses came against the Cubs and after the right-hander had won four straight.

Let's continue with the coincidences. The final score in both games, 7-2. The winning pitcher in both games, Jason Hammel, who might be related to the Lerner's seeing as he owns the Nationals.

In each game, Hammel (8-5) was good, but not great. He gave up a solo homer to the suddenly scorching Jayson Werth and the 6-foot-6 righty's outing ended in the seventh after allowing two runs. As was the case on June 27 in Chicago, that was more than enough. The Cubs have won four straight.

Hammel's dominance over Washington extends far beyond two outings. With Friday's win, he improved to 8-0 with a 3.11 ERA lifetime in 10 starts against Washington. That includes victories in seven straight appearances including two in the last seven days. 

"He's good," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. He's been tough on us. He's been tough on everybody, but especially us." 

Roark has been tough against just about everyone else except the Cubs. He had not allowed four runs or more in consecutive starts until facing Chicago. In the rematch eight days later, he allowed four runs and nine hits over seven innings. Yes, extremely similar numbers to his the previous start, when he gave up four runs on a season-high 10 hits. 

"Just seems like he's missing a little bit," Williams said of his starter. "Missing fastball location probably most, which of course sets up everything else. Just not as crisp, not as on the corner. If he does get a strike it's maybe a little bit up, a little bit over the plate."

[RELATED: Washington's winning streak snapped by Chicago]

While Roark stated he just "got beat" in this matchup, he cited an issue of too much deference to those behind the plate. 

"I've got to execute the pitches that I want and shake off whenever I want and not just throw whatever the catcher is putting down," Roark said. "I feel like that's the biggest thing for me."

Who knows what happens if Roark executes a sacrifice bunt in the fifth with two runners on and nobody out. In control throughout, Hammel turned wild and fell behind in the count 3-0. Despite that advantage, Roark eventually struck out as his final bunt attempt went foul.

"Could have been a different game there potentially," Williams noted. Two batters later, Bryce Harper struck out to end the inning.

Batting second, Harper went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. That's actually something different seeing as the left fielder batted sixth in his first three games off the disabled list.

Roark and Hammel entered the game with the same win-loss record and ERA (2.98). That meant starters with identical records and ERAs with at least 15 starts would face each other for the first time since Aug. 15, 1974.

So take that wild stat and then note the pitchers they faced off for the second time in eight days with the same winner and loser and the same 7-2 final. Yep, that's what you call a coincidence, or quirk or just something bizarre.

The Cubs winning again, that's no fluke.

"They just got done sweeping Boston," Denard Span said after hitting a double in four at-bats. "We're playing a hot team. We've got to find a way to cool them off tomorrow."