It was his 11-year-old son, Drake, who had a message for his father.
“It’s about time,” Drake said, patting his dad on the back. Drake then turned and walked away.
“I think he was getting fed up with the 0-fers,” the elder LaRoche joked to reporters later.
After starting the season 0-for-15, LaRoche busted out in a big way tonight. He smacked two home runs - a two-run shot in the sixth and a solo blast in the eighth that ended up being the game-winner - boosting his average to .118.
It’s still not where LaRoche wants it, but at least it’s not all donuts.
“It’s never a good feeling (starting slow),” said LaRoche, who over the course of his career has almost always been a slow starter. “First series, to look up and see zeroes for a batting average is OK. You get into the second week of the season, it’s never a good sign to look up there and not have a hit. But I felt great that first series at home (against the Marlins). Felt great, just couldn’t get the ball to fall. Went to Cincy, had the back issue, so to come back and get into a couple was nice.”
The back started acting up during the final game against the Marlins, LaRoche said, and it started affecting him mentally. After getting the last two games off combined with the Nats’ scheduled off-day yesterday, LaRoche felt much better today, and it showed in his performance.
“It felt pretty good,” LaRoche said. “I was nervous about it the last few days, because Cincinnati was tight. We had that cold game here at home, and for whatever reason, it just locked up. It wouldn’t let go. Luckily, yesterday (I) got some treatment done to it and somehow got it loosened up today to go play. Feels a lot better.”
LaRoche said he hopes the back issue is behind him and won’t be something he’ll have to deal with for an extended period. Only time will tell on that front.
On the hitting front, when I say LaRoche has had some slow starts, I mean it. In 2007, he opened the season going 5-for-53 (.094). The next season, he started out 7-for-60 (.117). All those incredibly slow starts make an 0-for-15 seem like nothing, and they’ve taught LaRoche how to deal with these tough stretches.
“I don’t want to change anything,” he said. “That’s one thing I’ve learned - just because they’re not falling, don’t go in and revamp the swing. After we hit it, can’t control it after that.”
Against the Marlins, LaRoche scalded a couple balls that just happened to land in the mitts of Miami outfielders. He flied out to the track in left field in the second game of that series, with a stiff wind helping to prevent the ball from traveling out of Nationals Park. In his next at-bat, LaRoche smoked a ball at right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, who backed up a bit and made the grab. In the series finale Thursday, LaRoche sent another hard-hit line drive to left, and again, it was caught.
If it’s possible for a guy that was 0-for-15 to be happy with how he was hitting, LaRoche was that guy.
“I didn’t worry about it at all,” LaRoche said. “I would come in and work on it if I knew my timing was off and I was putting bad at-bats, chasing pitches and not putting quality at-bats up. But I felt as good as I could feel that first series (against the Marlins). ... That first series is where I want to be all year. And when I’m going really good, that’s how I’m feeling at the plate. I love it. I want to keep that going.”