Washington Nationals' first baseman Adam LaRoche was 0 for 3 at the plate last night in Dodger Stadium, leaving him 1 for 23 with six Ks on the current road trip.
After a .279/.383/.457 first half of the 2014 campaign, the 11-year veteran has put up a .217/.322/.401 line so far in the second half, though he was off to a strong start in August, with a .280/.410/.573 line through the end of the Nats' homestand last week, before his back started to bother him.
A lower back issue which flared up during the Nationals' bus ride from D.C. to Philadelphia, PA last Sunday night has been bothering the 34-year-old middle of the order bat for a while now, but it grew worse as the series opener in L.A. went on and he was eventually replaced at first by Kevin Frandsen in the seventh inning on Monday.
"His back is tight," manager Matt Williams told reporters after the Nationals' 6-4 win. "It really tightened up tonight, so we decided to get him out of there. His last at bat he took a swing and fouled a ball off and it really hurt him, so we'll evaluate him tomorrow and see how he is."
With the Nationals facing Dodgers' lefty Clayton Kershaw, who has held left-handed hitters to a .173/.202/.209 line this season, Williams said it could be an opportunity to give LaRoche a day to rest.
"Potentially," he said. "It's pretty painful right now. So we'll see how he does tonight. We've got a little time with the earlier game tonight and the later game tomorrow, we'll see."
Williams said the back issue got worse in the last day or so.
"It feels to him like it gets tight more often," the first-year skipper explained, "so we'll just have to evaluate it, it will be a day-by-day thing, but tonight he was hurting pretty good."
"It's been tight for a while," LaRoche explained. "The last couple of days it's just gotten tighter late in the game.
"Come the fourth or fifth inning it starts really tightening up from standing around. So, I've had it before. I hope it's quick, a day or two, but again you never know. It's one spot in my lower back. It just locks up and I'm able to get it pretty loose to get going and then the further along the game gets, the more standing out there at first defensively is when I feel it most."
"Yesterday was really sore and today the same thing," he continued.
The veteran infielder did, however, say that he doesn't think it will be a long-term issue.
"I'm not concerned that this could drag out for a while. I don't know that I'll be able to play through it right now. I tried today. Yesterday was rough. Today, kind of the game plan was start the game, hopefully finish, worse case get a lead and find a point to come out."
While Frandsen filled in at first after LaRoche left the game Monday night, with the roster additions the Nationals made before the start of the series in Los Angeles, they have other options.
Tyler Moore, who has played 46 games at first over three years in the majors, put up a .278/.391/.514 line with five doubles and four home runs in 72 ABs against left-handers at Triple-A Syracuse this season, though he's struggled against major league lefties in his career.
Steven Souza, who has done some pregame work at first while up in the majors, did play 117 games at first with High-A Potomac in 2011, though he hasn't played first at any level since.
Souza crushed Triple-A lefties this season, putting up a .322/.433/.506 line against International League southpaws.
Frandsen, in 62 PAs vs left-handed pitchers this season, has a .344/.355/.377 line. He's 1 for 6 with a walk against Kershaw in his career.
LaRoche is 5 for 22 against the Dodgers' left-handed ace in their respective careers, with a double, a home run, two walks and 11 Ks vs Kershaw.
No word on tonight's lineup yet...as of 5:13 PM EDT.