LaRoche’s pop, Braves’ sloppiness give Nats an early lead

ATLANTA - Adam LaRoche has admitted that this season has felt pretty good on a personal level given all that he went through during a disastrous 2011 campaign.

The 2012 season got even better for LaRoche in the top of the first inning today when he turned on an 0-1 pitch from Tommy Hanson and drove it out into the seats in right for his 30th homer of the year.

LaRoche now has 94 RBIs to go along with his 30 jacks - quite an accomplishment for the veteran first baseman. He’s just the fifth Nationals player to hit 30 homers in a season, joining Alfonso Soriano (46 in 2006), Adam Dunn (38 in both 2009 and 2010), Ryan Zimmerman (33 in 2009) and Michael Morse (31 in 2011).

The two-run shot quickly gave the Nats a 2-0 lead over Hanson and the Braves, but that lead only doubled an inning later thanks to some incredibly sloppy play by Atlanta.

After Jesus Flores walked with one out in the second, Steve Lombardozzi hit a routine groundball to first baseman Freddie Freeman. Freeman juggled the ball initially, then turned and thought about throwing to second to get Flores. By the time he realized he had no play at second and turned back to first base, the hustling Lombardozzi had beat him to the bag, giving the Nats runners at first and second with just one down.

The next batter, Edwin Jackson, laid down a sacrifice bunt which Hanson threw down the right field line, allowing Flores to come around to score. Lombardozzi motored to third, but when right fielder Jason Heyward sauntered to the ball and casually looked to throw it in to the middle of the diamond, Lombardozzi took off for home.

Heyward’s off-balance throw to the plate wasn’t in time, and just like that, the Nats had a 4-0 lead.

Atlanta got on the board a half-inning later on back-to-back extra-base hits by Freeman and Dan Uggla, but the Nationals still lead 4-1 in the third.

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