Veteran Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche was dealing with a lower back issue that kept him out of the lineup for Tuesday afternoon's game.
Tyler Moore started at first base in the series finale in L.A. on Wednesday, but as the game went on, LaRoche's bat was needed, so Nats skipper Matt Williams turned to the 34-year-old middle-of-the-order bat after Bryce Harper singled his way on with one down in the ninth and the Nationals trailing 2-0.
LaRoche went 0 for 9 with three Ks as the Phillies were swept in Philadelphia after his back tightened up on the bus ride from D.C. to the City of Brotherly Love, and 1 for 11 with three Ks in Seattle, where the Nats took two of three.
He played against the Dodgers on Monday night, but his lower back tightened up on him and he left the game after going 0 for 3 in seven innings.
"His back is tight," Williams told reporters after the Nats' 6-4 win in Chavez Ravine on Monday. "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."
"I hope it's quick, a day or two, but again you never know," LaRoche explained after the win. "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."
Williams turned to LaRoche late in Wednesday's game out of necessity.
Trailing 2-0 in the top of the ninth inning, the left-handed hitting first baseman stepped in against Dodgers' closer Kenley Jansen, who'd gone 11 ⅓ IP without allowing a home run and surrendered just one in his previous 27 ⅓ going back to June 17th and handed the reliever his first blown save in over a month when he hit a 92 mph 2-1 fastball out to left, 375ft+ to tie things up at 2-2.
The Nationals added a run later in the ninth and took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the inning only to have a two-out error by Jayson Werth in right allow the Dodgers to tie it up and send the game to extra innings.
So LaRoche stayed in the game.
It was still tied at 3-3 in the eleventh when LaRoche stepped in and was hit by a pitch from reliever Jamey Wright. He was stranded three outs later.
In the twelfth, the Nats loaded the bases with one down with Anthony Rendon drawing a leadoff walk and Werth and Harper singling, and LaRoche stepped in again for his third at bat, this time against reliever Brandon League.
It wasn't just the tight lower back that was an issue now.
"Beyond that he got hit in the left elbow," Williams said. "And he was having a really difficult time swinging the bat. But at that point we don't have anybody else. We've got Wilson [Ramos], but we don't want to use him. So [Harper] got the base hit to load the bases and [LaRoche] didn't know if he could swing, so he was thinking about laying down a bunt and then he just stayed on a ball and hit a two-run single."
The Nationals took a 5-3 lead at that point, but once again gave it back in the bottom of the inning.
His third at bat of the night came in the thirteenth with runners on first and second and one down after Ian Desmond reached on an error and Harper walked.
LaRoche's groundout brought in the eventual winning run when Desmond scored from third to make it 6-5 after moving up on a wild pitch.
"He was having a hard time swinging the bat," Williams said. "So we're fortunate to win that one I think, gave it away a couple of times, but we'll take it with the off day coming."
LaRoche ended the day 2 for 3 with five RBIs.
He was 1 for 23 on the road trip before he entered the game in the ninth inning.
He ended the game with a .259/.364/.446 line, 19 doubles and 20 HRs in 505 plate appearances this season.
Before the back issue came up, LaRoche was off to a strong start in August, putting up a .280/.410/.573 line with six doubles and six home runs in 100 PAs after a .159/.238/.227 month of July in which he hit three doubles and one home run in 101 PAs.
There is a mutual option at $15M for 2015 in the two-year deal LaRoche signed in 2013. Will the Nats bring him back? We might be seeing the last month-plus of LaRoche's time in D.C. Enjoy it while you can.