Adam LaRoche's .212/.264/.394 line against left-handed pitchers this season was a good reason to sit him against Colorado Rockies' lefty Jorge De La Rosa on Sunday afternoon in Nationals Park. 24-year-old, '06 1st Round pick Chris Marrero, who got the start at first and hit sixth in the lineup in the finale of the four-game series in Washington, D.C., put up a .303/.329/.424 line against lefties at Triple-A Syracuse before he was called back up to the majors for the first time since 2011, and he'd been used sparingly before Sunday afternoon's game.
1:26 pm EDT: On "The Manager's Show" on 106.7 the FAN In D.C. before the Nationals and Rockies finished up their weekend and season series, Davey Johnson talked to Charlie Slowes about the decision to give LaRoche the day off. "I talked to Adam LaRoche," Johnson said, "He wants to play. I said to Adam, 'It's not about you. I'll be able to give you a couple days off and we don't have an off day coming back Tuesday until the All-Star Break and I'll ride you heavy then. But also too, it's all about Marrero. He's used to playing every day and I need to get him some at bats so he can be productive coming off the bench and gets us some big hits."
Marrero grounded out on the first pitch he saw from De La Rosa in the first at bat in the bottom of the second. A groundout to second in his second at bat brought in a run since it came with runners on second and third after Jayson Werth had singled and Ian Desmond had doubled Werth's pinch runner Roger Bernadina around to third to put two on with no outs. Marrero singled through short on a 1-1 splitter in the top of the sixth, connecting for his first hit in 13 at bats since returning to the big leagues.
3:20-ish pm EDT: The fourth time Marrero stepped up, a right-hander was on the mound. Rockies' reliever Rob Scahill took over for De La Rosa, threw 10 of his first 21 pitches for balls, giving up one and two out singles and a two-out walk to load the bases, but Davey Johnson didn't turn to LaRoche, instead leaving Marrero in to face the righty. Rockies' lefty Josh Outman was warmed up, watching from the bullpen to see if LaRoche picked up a bat. LaRoche was 1 for 3 career vs Outman for what it's worth. Marrero took the first pitch he saw from Scahill, a 96 mph fastball, to right field on a line drive that Michael Cuddyer caught for the final out of the inning. Left-handed closer Rex Brothers got a groundout to third from Marrero in the final at bat of five the first baseman got on Sunday in the bottom of the ninth.
So was LaRoche available to hit in any of the spots he could have been used in, in what ended up a 7-6 loss to the Rockies? A reporter asked Davey Johnson after the game.
4:30 pm EDT: "Yes, he was," the manager said.
Johnson was then asked to go through his thinking in not using LaRoche in any of the spots. "It's a long season," the Nats' 70-year-old skipper said, "and some of these guys, especially young guys on the bench -- I mean, I'm not going to just completely take the bat -- I mean, unless maybe it's the tying run or something -- they've got to contribute and do the things that I know they're capable of doing.
"The only chance I would have used LaRoche was with the right-hander [Scahill] in there and he would have faced the left-hander [Outman]. But here was a pitcher that was struggling, wild, you're going to get a fastball, he's a pretty good fastball hitter. I don't like the fact that [Marrero] gets the first fastball down the middle and goes the other way with it, but that pitcher was struggling to throw it over and the only thing he could throw over was his fastball. But, I want to show them I have confidence in them in those situations."
In the eighth inning, the Rockies had Matt Belisle on the mound. The Nationals rallied to load the bases with back-to-back one-out singles and a walk. Anthony Rendon struck out swinging for the second out of the frame. A grounder up the middle by Ryan Zimmerman was good for an RBI single and a run scored on an error by shortstop Josh Rutledge to get the Nats within three at 7-4.
Colorado manager Walt Weiss went to his pen, bringing lefty Rex Brothers in for the four-out save, so Davey Johnson sent his backup catcher Jhonatan Solano to the plate in place of left-handed swinging outfielder Roger Bernadina and the gamble and show of faith in Solano paid off when the catcher doubled in two runs to get Washington within one at 7-6. Ian Desmond K'd swinging in the next at bat, however, and that was as close as the Nationals would get.