LaRoche’s big bat making indelible mark on Nats’ latest run

Ever since Adam LaRoche swung the bat in two former familiar homes, he has been locked in. And more recently to start the Nationals’ 10-game road trip, he has hit four homers in his past three games, including in back-to-back at-bats in Friday’s 6-5, 10-inning thriller at San Diego.

The former Brave and Pirate got his groove back May 2 at Turner Field, continued it at PNC Park, and has not looked back well into the final weeks of May.

Manager Davey Johnson spoke last week about hoping that LaRoche and others could get their power numbers going. After getting his stroke back following a recent hitless streak, Johnson thought LaRoche’s power would return. And it did in a big way this week at Dodger Stadium and Petco Park.

With two homers Friday, LaRoche extended his career-high hitting streak to 14 games. He has been 19-for-48 (.396) since May 2 with two doubles, four homers and 10 RBIs.

“He has been on fire, swinging the bat good for a couple of weeks now,” Johnson said on MASN’s Nats Xtra.

And when you watch LaRoche in batting practice or in each at-bat, you see how effortless his swing is. On his first homer Friday, he swung through the ball and only looked up when he saw that it was angling deep over the outfield wall.

His effortless swing is matched only by his smooth defense at first. Constantly, LaRoche catches close-to-errant throws with ease, and records outs like a machine.

LaRoche’s hot hitting, steady defense and calm, soft-spoken resolve rub off on his teammates, personifying a confident and focused Nats clubhouse. It is unmistakable how important it was to keep LaRoche this past offseason and that leadership has made an important mark on a clubhouse of what is still a relatively young group.

That mark is similar to the imprints his homers made in the Petco Park hill past the center field wall. Two of the four homers hit by the Nats Friday were courtesy of LaRoche.

He laid the foundation for what turned into being one of the most dramatic wins for the Nationals this season.

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