|Photo by USA Today|
It's hard to pull silver linings out of what was a brutal loss for the Nationals on Wednesday night, their fourth straight and last of a sweep at the hand of the Atlanta Braves.
The Nats did see, however, Tanner Roark make his major league debut and throw two scoreless innings with just a hit allowed.
The 26-year-old from Wilmington, Illinois - a town of just over 5,000 people - entered the game in the fifth inning with the score tied at 2-2, replacing starter Jordan Zimmermann. And as he did, over 100 of his family and friends back home huddled around a projector screen they hooked up to a computer in a garage to watch Tanner realize his lifelong dream.
"I have a bunch of texts from all my buddies and family and friends back home watching on a big screen in a cul de sac where I live," he said after the game.
Roark had his fiancée, her parents, and her brother and wife in attendance at Nats Park on Wednesday and couldn't hide his excitement afterwards, despite the team losing the game. He was admittedly nervous on the mound and was still calming down hours after the experience.
"Nerves were high. First big league debut," he said.
Roark tried to focus on the task at hand and forget the fact he was playing in front of 30,000 people for the first time.
"Just look at the glove and don’t look at everything else around because I’ve never played in front of that big of a crowd."
Roark capped the sixth inning with a diving catch towards the first base line on a Kris Medlen bunt. Roark tossed the ball to first to retire B.J. Upton and secure the double play. It was an athletic move that looked like just another day at the office for Roark, but he said it wasn't quite that easy.
"I’d like to see the replay of that because it didn’t feel as graceful as I’m sure it looked."
The Nationals eventually lost the game 6-3 and were swept by the Atlanta Braves. Roark would have preferred to come away with a win for his team, but he certainly did his part to help their cause.
"It was great. It’s exciting, very nerve-wracking," he said. "All in all, I’ll take it."