MLB Game Preview: Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves - Date: 9/21/2017 Nats' Roark looks to continue strong finish vs. Braves 1h ago• 2 min read ATLANTA -- The final starts of the season carry significance for Tanner Roark of the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves' R. A. Dickey, pitchers on different trajectories who face each other Thursday night.Roark (13-9, 4.43 ERA) hopes to continue his second-half bounce-back as he readies for a role in the postseason rotation as the Nationals bid for their first World Series appearance.Dickey (9-10, 4.41 ERA) is trying to recover from a rough late-season stretch and show that he is worthy of a spot for 2018 with the Braves as a stabilizer in what figures to be a very young rotation.Roark is 7-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 11 outings since the All-Star break after going 6-6 with a 5.27 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) previously, including 1-4, 8.31 in six June starts.The right-hander is 4-1 in his past five starts and is 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA in three September outings, recording 23 strikeouts and three walks over 19 innings."I learned from early on in the year," said Roark, who has seven quality starts out of his past eight games. "Just keep going at it, keep grinding, keep working hard. It'll turn around. I'm a firm believer in that." Roark is 6-2 with a 2.80 ERA in his career against Atlanta. He beat the Braves in Washington on Sept. 14, when he allowed two runs and four hits over six innings after struggling in two earlier games vs. Atlanta this year.With victories in his final two starts, the 30-year-old Roark would have at least 15 victories in all three years he has been a full-time major league starter. He was 15-10 in 2014 and 16-10 last year, posting ERAs of 2.85 and 2.83, respectively.While Roark has had a very encouraging September, it has been a very disappointing one for Dickey.The 42-year-old knuckleballer is 0-2 with a 10.50 ERA in three starts this month. Opponents have batted .333 in his past six outings as he has given up fewer than four runs only once.Dickey had 2.85 ERA over a 12-start stretch through Aug. 13, and it appeared that the Braves would definitely pick up his $8 million option for 2018. It is not certain now, and how he does in his final two starts could be a determining factor."If you play long enough, you're going to have streaks like this," said Dickey, who won the 2012 National League Cy Young Award with the New York Mets. "These last few games for me have been very inconsistent as far as my knuckleball goes. I had a great one in (Philadelphia on Aug. 30), and then the past three starts it kind of floated away from me." In a loss to the Mets on Saturday, Dickey tried to surprise his old team by abandoning the knuckleball at times and throwing fastball and curves. He wound up allowing five runs and eight hits in five innings."It was a night when I had a horrible knuckleball and tried to survive some innings with some conventional pitching," he said afterward.Dickey is 0-2 with a 5.92 ERA in four starts against Washington this year and 4-9 with a 4.17 ERA in 20 career games (18 starts) vs. the Nationals.
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