A notoriously slow starter, Adam LaRoche followed that career-long trend this season. Boy, did he ever.
Through his first 25 games this season, LaRoche hit a miniscule .129/.204/.247 with three homers and eight RBIs. Yes, his slugging percentage was well below his career batting average, and he was barely reaching base 20 percent of his plate appearances.
In LaRoche’s 63 games since, however, the Nationals’ first baseman has gotten back on track.
Over his last 251 plate appearances, LaRoche is batting .300/.382/.507 with 10 homers and 35 RBIs. Those numbers include tonight’s two-run double in the first inning, a shot that gave the Nationals an early lead.
LaRoche took a 2-1, 97 mph fastball from Nathan Eovaldi and rifled it into the right field corner. It brought in Denard Span and Ian Desmond, and two batters later, Jayson Werth gave the Nats a 3-0 lead with an RBI groundout that plated Bryce Harper.
That lead was short-lived, however, as Stephen Strasburg allowed five - yes, five - Marlins runs in the first inning.
Miami batted around in the first, sending 10 men to the plate. Strasburg allowed four hits and walked three. Those three walks all came within the first four hitters Strasburg faced.
He then allowed a bases-clearing triple to Marcell Ozuna that knotted the game. That one swing plated more runs than Strasburg had allowed in 13 starts this season.
The Marlins tacked on two more runs on RBI singles by Derek Dietrich and Eovaldi, giving them a 5-3 lead.
Strasburg needed 36 pitches to get out of the first, and Ross Ohlendorf even needed to start getting loose with Strasburg having retired just two batters.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Nats’ ace responds to perhaps the worst first inning of his career.
Meanwhile, Micah Owings has signed a minor league deal with the Brewers, according to reports.
Owings, the pitcher-turned-position player who spent spring training with the Nats and played the first three months of the season at Triple-A Syracuse, asked for and was granted his release by the Nats on July 1.