LaRoche in August:
Washington Nationals' first baseman Adam LaRoche's fairly brutal .159/.238/.227 month of July at the plate took the 34-year-old veteran from a .307/.415/.509 line on June 30th down to a .266/.367/.430 line on July 31st.
In 24 games and 101 plate appearances in July, LaRoche hit just three doubles and one home run, walking nine times and striking out in 18 at bats.
A career .297/.369/.535 hitter in August, however, LaRoche has started to heat up again over the last few weeks with a .333/.433/.667 line in the first 14 game and 60 PAs this month after he went 2 for 4 with a run scored and two RBI singles in Friday night's 5-4 win over the Pirates.
So far this month, LaRoche is 17 for 51 with five doubles, four home runs, nine walks, 13 Ks and a .382 BABIP, up from July's .181 batting average on balls in play.
"If you watch him take batting practice," Nationals' skipper Matt Williams told reporters after last night's win, "he's really concentrating on hitting the ball shortstop side. And he did that once tonight. But that just keeps him on the baseball."
"Yeah, he's hit some homers," Wiliams continued. "He hit a homer left-center field yesterday and hit a single through the hole at short today. The first one he hit was pretty much up the middle, so he's staying on the ball better."
LaRoche's two hits last night were off Pittsburgh right-hander Charlie Morton. He struck out and grounded out in his next two ABs against Pirates' relievers Jeanmar Gomez and Tony Watson, respectively.
"You get those two lefties in their bullpen it's difficult for any left-hand hitter," Williams said, referring to Justin Wilson and Watson, who threw a scoreless inning each, though only Watson faced LaRoche, "but [LaRoche's] first two at bats were really good, stayed on the ball really nice."
On the year, LaRoche has a .275/.376/.463 line after last night's game, with 18 doubles and 17 HRs in 436 PAs over which he's collected 62 walks and 80 Ks.
Among the many unwritten rules in baseball, which are actually written down in several places, so that's actually a bit of a misnomer, is the one that says you never make the first or third out at third base.
Denard Span violated that rule, or maxim, or adage maybe, in the first inning last night when he singled, stole second base and then was thrown out going for third with two on and one out in the bottom of the first inning.
Anthony Rendon, of course, singled to right in the next at bat, on a line drive that would potentially have scored the game's first run had Span not been thrown out at third by Pirates' catcher Russell Martin during Rendon's AB.
The Nationals scored three runs in the first in spite of Span's gaffe, or TOOTBLAN or poor decision if you're not into acronyms, but Nats' skipper Matt Williams defended the risk Span took when a reporter asked about it after the game, while noting that Span did go 3 for 4 and put together another strong outing... and it was only the fourth time he's been caught stealing this season in 29 attemtps, but still... so why did Span make the ill-advised attempt to swipe base no.25 of 2014?
"Because he's got the green light and if he feels like he can steal it then he's going to go," Williams said unapologetically.
"It's the way we play. We're not going to change that. So, we see things out there, he feels it out there, he knows what he's doing. Was his jump a little bit late, yeah, maybe, but we're not going to change the way we're going to play."
But he would have... like.. you know, probably scored from third on Rendon's hit... and... statistically, isn't a player, especially one as fast as Span just as likely to score from second as from third on a hit... ah whatever, they won right...?
• We talked about Adam LaRoche, Denard Span's caught stealing and Tanner Roark's start on last night's edition of Nats Nightly. Give a listen while you wait for the second game of three with the Pirates to start...