Back on track, LaRoche delivers a monster performance

CHICAGO - After Thursday’s game, in which Adam LaRoche went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, his 9-year-old son Drake approached him with a question.

“What were you doing?” Drake asked his father.

All the Nationals’ first baseman could do was laugh.

“I said, ‘Drake, you’re exactly right,’ ” LaRoche said.

LaRoche didn’t know exactly why he struggled so badly in the Nationals’ opening day win over the Cubs. But he knew going forward he needed to just stay focused, not try to do too much and trust his swing. That’s what he did today, and the results were exceptional - LaRoche went 4-for-5 with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored.

“I just wasn’t seeing it (Thursday). I was fighting it, trying to get in there. It wasn’t one of those days,” LaRoche said. “I was able to come out and just see it better today, better pitch selection. I wasn’t chasing the pitches I was yesterday.”

Sometimes, it’s just that simple.

After flying out to center in his first at-bat today, LaRoche stepped up in the fourth against Cubs starter Matt Garza. The veteran first baseman saw a 95 mph fastball on the inner half and turned on it. The ball clanked off the foul pole in right, and LaRoche circled the bases, the owner of a two-run homer.

It was the first longball for LaRoche since April 24 of last year, a time when LaRoche was battling shoulder issues which eventually required season-ending surgery.

“I don’t know that I could have got to that last year,” LaRoche said of the pitch from Garza. “There were a lot of pitches, even when I was feeling really good last year, a lot of pitches I felt like I should have killed. I would just miss them. I’d foul them back or fly out. I was not able to get the bat head to it. I’ve been feeling a lot better this year.”

LaRoche followed up the homer by singling in three straight at-bats, tying his career high for most hits in a single game with four.

The 32-year-old missed time this spring training with a foot injury, but he says he never had problems with his surgically repaired left shoulder. The shoulder feels perfectly healthy now, he says, and the Nationals hope that will result in big numbers.

“It’s nice to know,” LaRoche said. “I felt it in spring training. I felt it in batting practice. I could feel it in games. I wasn’t having to cheat as much. I was able to sit back and see it a little longer. I kind of knew in camp it was gone and feeling good. But obviously, it feels good.”

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