The most lasting, important development from the first series of the Nationals season could not be discerned from the stat sheet. You cannot form conclusions after three games. Gio Gonzalez had one bad start, and that will happen. Jayson Werth has 159 games to start putting some hits out of there.
So what did we learn that will have an impact from now through the fall? Well, we know now that Adam LaRoche can still crush a baseball, can still turn around a fastball on the inside corner and send it into the seats.
You could have gotten some long odds that the Nationals’ hitting stars of the first series would be Chad Tracy, Ian Desmond and LaRoche. But that’s what happened, and it’s LaRoche’s mashing that matters most. Coming off his shoulder surgery, after a spring in which a bone bruise limited his at-bats, LaRoche struck out three times opening day, looking like a complete and utter liability.
And then he smashed two homers in the next two days, and the way he did laid to rest any doubts about his shoulder. Saturday, he crushed a high-and-tight, 95-mph fastball from Matt Garza off the right field foul pole. Sunday, he smoked a 97-mph heater from Jeff Samardzija over the fence in right, almost clean out of Wrigley Field.
“I just think he’s healthy,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “I think he’s hungry. He’s had quality at-bats, even when coming back from the injury. He swung the bat good in spring training, and he’s carried it over.”
This winter, when the Nationals said they would count on LaRoche’s healthy return as a primary boost to their offense, there was reason for skepticism. In the first weekend of the season, LaRoche melted some of that skepticism.
“That’s the player he is, and that’s the player he’ll be,” Werth said. “He’s swinging the bat good now.”
The Nationals’ bats still need to pick up. But one of the biggest offensive concerns has been, so far, their best development.
FROM THE POST
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 10, Syracuse 0: John Lannan allowed five runs in two innings on six hits and two walks, striking out one. Bryce Harper played right field and committed an error. The Chiefs managed one hit, a single by Mark Teahen.
Harrisburg 5, Bowie 2: Eury Perez went 2 for 4 with a triple and a walk. Michael Morse went 1 for 2 with a double and a walk in his rehab appearance. Rick Ankiel went 0 for 2 with a walk.
Lynchburg 3, Potomac 2: Randolph Oduber went 1 for 4 with a double. James Skelton went 2 for 3.
Hagerstown 8, West Virginia 6: Brian Goodwin went 2 for 5 with a home run. In his first four games, Goodwin has gone 5 for 14 with five walks, two steals and two homers. Matt Skole went 1 for 2 with a double and two walks. Kylin Turnbull allowed three runs in four innings on five hits and no walks, striking out one.