A veteran not known for his speed getting that extra base. A young player returning to his collegiate position making a big defensive play. Both combine for big hits. All are a part of the Nationals’ 5-0 victory over the Marlins on Tuesday night.
First baseman Adam LaRoche was able to slide safely into second base in the sixth inning, thanks to Marlins second baseman Jeff Baker’s inability to hold onto to the throw from catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The error by Baker was big in the inning, with Bryce Harper scoring from third and the Nationals turning a 1-0 nailbiter into a 3-0 lead.
LaRoche said to help his team win game with his legs is rare indeed.
“Doesn’t happen too often,” LaRoche said. “So, yes, when we do, soak that up. Not every day do I get to take an extra base or go first to home.”
Then in the eighth, Anthony Rendon slammed a two-run double that scored Jayson Werth and LaRoche in front of him and the Nationals had suddenly taken complete control of the game with a 5-0 lead.
“I told Rendon after the game, I said, ‘Hey, way to swing it, but next time put that ball in the seats,’ ” LaRoche said with a smile. “Because I don’t know if I can hold up at 34 years old with you guys running me that much.
“Great offensive day, (we made it) through with runs, our guys shut them out, made it easy on us. Like anybody we play, if we go do what we can do and our pitchers do what they did tonight, you know, I like our chances against anybody. Another solid baseball game.”
LaRoche going for second base in the sixth was another example of the Nats turning up their aggressive play. They had shown their ability to push the Mets in the first week, but then the Braves caught them three times Friday night. So how do you know when to get greedy on the base paths?
“There is wise times to do it and times where the score will dictate whether to take that extra base,” LaRoche said. “We were in position all day today to go take that extra base if possible and take some extra chances.
“That is what (manager) Matty (Williams) has been preaching all spring training - obviously be heads up and know the situation, but when there is an opportunity, take a chance there and put pressure on them.”
Rendon also showed some aggressiveness and downright hustle playing third base again. Ryan Zimmerman sat out with shoulder inflammation giving Rendon a chance to return to his natural position he had grown accustomed to at Rice University.
Rendon made a great defensive play in the seventh to stop Reed Johnson’s bunt attempt for a base hit in the Marlins’ best chance to start a rally. He said he wasn’t nervous in making the bang-bang play because that was the spot on the field he always felt most comfortable.
“It works the other way around a little easier this way because I came from third base, but there is still a little bit of an adjustment,” Rendon said. “That is what the game of baseball is, making adjustments.
“I did (that play) a good amount of times in college, I guess I still have a little bit left. I always know I have a little bit of time, especially if you know I am playing back and you know there is going to be a speedy runner out there, you just have to grab it and throw it.”
Rendon’s double became the game-clinching hit, and he finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs on the night, raising his average to .407 after seven games.
Is he in a groove at the plate?
“I am feeling all right, feel comfortable, feel relaxed,” Rendon said. “That is what I try to stay is relaxed and try not to do too much.”