The Grand Slam: Tanner Roark hurls first shutout, Brandon Morrow issues eight walks

Mark Townsend
April 27, 2014
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TANNER ROARK GOES THE DISTANCE: Only guaranteed a spot in the Washington Nationals opening day rotation after Doug Fister was placed on the disabled list, 27-year-old Tanner Roark is taking advantage of his opportunity and making future decisions difficult for manager Matt Williams. On Saturday, Roark really cemented his strong April (2-0, 2.76) by tossing his first career complete game shutout — covering 10 MLB starts and 166 minor league appearances — in Washington's 4-0 victory over the San Diego Padres.

For a time, Roark even flirted with perfection, retiring the first 16 Padres in order. Backup catcher Rene Rivera ended it with a clean single to center field. San Diego would only muster two hits and a walk from that point on as Roark cruised into victory lane with his most satisfying outing to date.

''I was feeling confident out there on the mound, feeling strong,'' Roark said. ''Getting ahead of the hitters is the biggest thing.''

''For the first time doing it, it feels real good,'' Roark said. ''It feels great. It gives you confidence.''

And his teammates only made things more satisfying with this gesture.

Offensively, Ian Desmond led the way with three hits, an RBI and a stolen base.

EIGHT CRAZY WALKS: A matchup with the Boston Red Sox dangerous and patient lineup is never ideal, but it can quickly turn into a disaster if you don't have your best command on the mound. Unfortunately for Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Brandon Morrow, his best command was nowhere near Rogers Centre on Saturday afternoon. In 2 1/3 innings of work, Morrow didn't allow a hit, but still gave up four earned runs thanks largely to his eight walks.

That's right, eight walks. And he only needed 66 pitches (26 strikes) to do it.

The outing was so erratic, Morrow became the first starter to walk eight and throw no more than three innings since 2003, when Houston’s Jonathan Johnson also lost his command against the Red Sox offense. Worth nothing, David Ortiz was in Boston’s lineup on that day 11 years ago, but didn't earn one of those walks. On Saturday, he drew two from Morrow and a third one later in the game. 

Four of Morrow's walks came in the third inning, including a bases loaded pass to Grady Sizemore. Chad Jenkins came in to face A.J. Pierzynski and promptly served up a grand slam and a solo shot to Will Middlebrooks. Each of those would be important, as the Red Sox held on to win 7-6.  


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The Altanta Braves got yet another terrific performance from their makeshift starting rotation on Saturday. 26-year-old David Hale allowed a single run in the first, and then faced the minimum over his final seven innings to lead Atlanta to a 4-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds

The outing lowered Hale's season ERA to 2.31 over four starts, but that still may not be enough to secure his rotation spot. With veteran left-hander Mike Minor due back next week, he's shaping up as the odd man out. 

''I mean, obviously that stuff runs through my head,'' Hale said of keeping his spot in the rotation. ''I try not to let it get too deep in there. My goal is to be here and do the best I can and let things fall the way they will, so we'll see what happens.''

Three guys whose spots are secure are Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman and Evan Gattis. All three homered in the victory.

INJURY WOES: A number of baseball's top stars were out of action on Saturday or left games with ailments.

• Bryce Harper sat out of Washington's victory with a left thumb injury suffered while sliding head first into third base on Friday night. X-rays were negative, and Nationals manager Matt Williams expects Harper to be back in the lineup soon.

• The Baltimore Orioles announced reigning American League home run champion Chris Davis is headed to the 15-day DL with a strained right oblique.

• The Milwaukee Brewers lost two position players they hope for the short term in Saturday's 5-3 win over the Cubs. Jean Segura escaped serious injury after inadvertently being struck in the face by one of Ryan Braun's practice swings near the dugout. He required several stitches but is not expected to need a DL stint. Ryan Braun also left the game with a slight right intercostal strain. He's listed as day-to-day.

• Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez came up favoring his thumb early in their 6-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies. X-rays were negative, and the Dodgers say it's not related to the injury that required thumb surgery last season

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!