Coming up with an explanation for his uncharacteristically ineffective performance was far easier for Tanner Roark than getting through the Baltimore Orioles' lineup.
Roark allowed five runs in 6 1-3 innings as the Washington Nationals dropped a 7-3 decision to their neighboring rivals Monday night in a duel between first-place teams.
The five runs were the most Roark surrendered in 16 starts since May 3. The right-hander won his previous four starts, allowing only one run in each game.
This one, however, was a clunker.
"The ball was up, elevated, I wasn't hitting my spots," Roark said. "If the ball's up and I'm not hitting spots, I'm going to get hit hard."
He gave up seven hits, including two homers. Roark hadn't allowed more than one home run in a game since that May 3 game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
"They're in first place for a reason," he said of the Orioles. "They hit the ball, and they showed it tonight."
Caleb Joseph homered and drove in three runs, J.J. Hardy had four hits and Nick Markakis also connected for the Orioles, who trailed 3-1 before rallying for their eighth win in 11 games.
The game was a makeup of the July 8 contest that was postponed by rain. A sellout crowd of 42,181 — many of them wearing Oriole orange — showed up to watch teams located just 38 miles apart on I-295.
Hardy and Ryan Flaherty opened the seventh with successive doubles off Roark (11-7) to tie it at 3. Delmon Young followed with an RBI single — making him 9 for 17 as a pinch-hitter this season — and Adam Jones capped the uprising with a run-scoring single, Baltimore's sixth hit of the inning.
Joseph singled in two runs in the eighth to make it 7-3.
Kevin Gausman (6-3) gave up three runs and eight hits in six innings for the Orioles.
"I definitely had to grind through that one," he said. "I think it was kind of huge to get through six there."
Washington's lead over Atlanta in the NL East slipped to three games and Baltimore increased its margin over Toronto to four games.
Wilson Ramos put the Nationals up 1-0 in the second inning with his first home run since July 9, against the Orioles.
Joseph homered in the third, the first run against Washington in 23 innings. In the bottom half, Jayson Werth hit a sacrifice fly.
Markakis made it 3-2 in the fifth with his 10th home run, matching his total of last season.
Two innings later, Roark gave up the lead for good.
"They've got a good offensive ballclub," Washington's Ian Desmond said. "They capitalized on some bad pitches or some mistake pitches. Credit to him, he did a good job up until that point."
Orioles: Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (right ankle sprain) has completed his rehabilitative work in the minors and could be activated from the DL as soon as Friday.
Nationals: Washington placed outfielder Nate McLouth on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse.
Orioles: Baltimore will start right-hander Bud Norris on Tuesday night in Toronto. He's 2-0 with a 1.83 ERA against Toronto this season.
Nationals: Gio Gonzalez (6-7) starts Tuesday for Washington in the opener of a three-game series against the New York Mets, who are 1-5 against the Nationals this year.
Washington's Denard Span went 2 for 4 with a double and has reached base via a hit or walk in 30 straight games.
His defense has also been solid of late, including a sliding catch to rob Nelson Cruz of a hit Monday.
"I think he could get to any ball from left-center to right-center," Roark said. "He's amazing out there."