Washington Nationals starter Tanner Roark delivers a pitch during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Saturday, July 16, 2016, in Washington. The Nationals won 6-0. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass
July 16, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) Tanner Roark pitches in a rotation with All-Stars Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer and still finds ways to stand out.

Roark pitched eight-plus innings of five-hit ball and had an RBI single during a three-run fourth as the Washington Nationals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-0 on Saturday night.

Roark (9-5) allowed five singles with one walk and five strikeouts in his longest start of the season. He started the ninth but left after allowing a single and hitting a batter.

''Oh, man. He was great,'' Nationals manager Dusty Baker said of Roark, who returned to Washington's rotation after working as a reliever in 2015. ''What can you say? He's given us everything we wanted.''

Anthony Rendon homered and drove in two runs. Second baseman Stephen Drew had three doubles and one RBI in place of NL batting leader Daniel Murphy. The Nationals have won five straight games, including two over the Pirates following the All-Star break, and 13 of 17.

Baker stated a goal of having Washington's record 20 games over .500 at some point this season. The latest victory did just that as the NL East leader improved to 56-36.

The Pirates have dropped three in a row after a 9-1 stretch.

Washington spoiled the return of Gerrit Cole (5-5) from the 15-day disabled list. The 2015 All-Star allowed five runs - four earned - and seven hits over four innings.

''I just didn't execute enough pitches,'' Cole said. ''If I made one quality pitch I followed it up with a subpar (pitch). ... I got crushed.''

Cole's first major league appearance since June 10 was delayed 71 minutes by rain. Washington wasted little time scoring with single runs in the first and second innings plus three in the fourth for a 5-0 lead.

Roark rarely faced trouble in recording his third win in four starts. The consistent right-hander pitched at least seven innings for the fifth straight outing.

''I pride myself ... on going as long as I can and as hard as I can,'' Roark said. ''That's what starting pitchers are supposed to do.''

Andrew McCutchen's second hit loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth, but reliever Blake Treinen completed Washington's seventh shutout this season.

Pittsburgh had three total runners reach in the second inning, but Roark deftly avoided damage with two groundouts including a double play on a ball hit by Sean Rodriguez.

Rendon's RBI single put Washington up 1-0 in the first. Back-to-back doubles by Drew and Danny Espinosa in the second added another run off Cole, a 19-game winner last season. He returned after missing several weeks with a right triceps strain. Cole entered Saturday 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA in three career starts against the Nationals.

Pittsburgh second baseman Josh Harrison fielded Roark's bases loaded grounder in the fourth. Spinning around for the throw to first base, Harrison's toss sailed and landed in Washington's dugout as two runs scored.

Murphy has missed consecutive games with left hamstring tightness after suffering an injury in Tuesday's MLB All-Star game.


McCutchen has a hit in seven straight games against Washington, batting .360 (9 for 25) with one home run and four RBIs in that stretch.


That Murphy's injury occurred in the All-Star game, while unfortunate, doesn't have Baker fretting over his players participating in the exhibition game. ''He could have done it getting out of the bathtub,'' Baker said. ''It's hard to live your life wondering if you're going to get hurt or not. You're just trying to not take any unnecessary risks.''


Pirates: RF Gregory Polanco either will return to the lineup by Tuesday or be placed on the disabled list with left hamstring tightness, manager Clint Hurdle said. Polanco, out since July 8, is not expected to play Sunday, but Hurdle stated, ''We're optimistic'' with his progress.

Nationals: Baker said he expects Murphy in Sunday's lineup, but playing first base ''because it's less grueling and twisting than at second base.''


Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (1-0, 6.08 ERA) allowed four runs in 2 1/3 innings for a no-decision against the Cubs in his previous start on July 10.

Nationals: RHP Scherzer (10-6, 3.03) makes his first start since appearing in the All-Star game. He threw a no-hitter against Pittsburgh on June 20, 2015.

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