FLUSHING, N.Y. - Adam LaRoche used Roger Bernadina’s bat in his first three trips to the plate tonight.
The switch-hitting Danny Espinosa hit right-handed against a right-handed pitcher.
The Nationals tried everything against Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. And after five innings of mostly ineffectiveness, all the tinkering started to pay off in the sixth.
Washington’s hitters strung together five straight two-out hits against Dickey in that sixth inning, scoring four runs which carried them to a 5-2 win.
“When he’s on and controlling the knuckleball at 80 mph, a lot of luck goes into squaring the ball up,” LaRoche said. “We just happened to do it a few times in that one inning, which was big to get those runs.”
LaRoche’s two-run homer into the second deck in right put the Nats on top. The Nats’ first baseman was 2-for-14 off Dickey in his career going into the at-bat, but benefited from using Bernadina’s lumber, which is roughly two ounces lighter than the bat he normally uses.
“I’ve been using a heavier bat, and obviously it hasn’t been working against Dickey,” LaRoche said. “So I figured it was time to try something new. It was actually (Ian) Desmond’s idea. He said, ‘Take the lighter bat up there, and you’ll have a chance to move it a little bit as the pitch is coming.’
“Normally the theory is, if somebody’s throwing slower, you can use a heavier bat when it’s dancing all over the place. I figured I’d try something lighter and see what happened.”
One hitter later, Espinosa, who is used to facing right-handed pitchers from the left-hand batter’s box, ripped a single to center from the right side. Two batters after that, Flores smoked a single to left, bringing in Espinosa and Flores, who came around on Jason Bay’s throwing error.
Flores felt Dickey’s knuckleball was elevating in the sixth, but Davey Johnson said his catcher was also able to get a better swing on it because he looked to take a hack before the ball got too far in on him.
“Rick Eckstein is probably the best hitting instructor I’ve been around,” Johnson said. “And he was talking to a couple of the guys, Flores in particular, also Michael Morse, that you can’t let the ball get too deep. And we were just letting the ball get too deep on us. You’ve got to get out there and get it. The big hit was Flo’s hit. He looked terrible the first two times (to the plate) and made the adjustment and smoked it.”
Flores’ knock made it a 5-1 game. Dickey was then taken out for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth, and by the time the game ended, the Mets’ knuckleballer had his first loss in over three months.
The Nats, meanwhile, had their fourth straight victory and another series win against a division opponent.
Don’t look now, but the Nationals are 9-1-3 in series against NL East opponents so far this season. That’s how you win a division, all right.