Manager Davey Johnson knew before today’s game Tony Cingrani would be a difficult matchup for Adam LaRoche. A deceptive, hard-throwing, left-handed strikeout machine was not the prescription to end LaRoche’s wicked slump.
And still, Johnson walked up to LaRoche and told him, “I’m most concerned about what you need.” LaRoche told his manager, “Sitting doesn’t do me any good. I need to play.”
Johnson kept LaRoche in the lineup, only moving him down to the sixth in the order. Even after LaRoche went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts Sunday – extending his hitless streak to 26 at-bats that includes 13 strikeouts – LaRoche will remain in the order Monday night when the Nationals face the Braves and right-hander Julio Teheran.
“His timing is a little off,” Johnson said. “Maybe his pitch selection is a little off, trying to make something happen. He’s a veteran hitter. He’ll come around. He’ll be fine.
“He contributes so much just defensively. I liked him out there. The score could have been a lot worse. He made some good plays out there today. But his bat will come around.”
LaRoche appreciated Johnson’s support as he remained frustrated, yet determined to snap out of the kind of slump he typically endures early in the season.
“He’s been great,” LaRoche said. “He gave me the option today to play or to sit. He’s doing everything he can. We’ve had some talks about it. I’m just picking every brain I can, hoping somebody can pinpoint something I’m not seeing. I continue to watch film and continue to go out there.
“I feel like every at-bat right now, I feel like I’m 1-2. Before the at-bat even starts, I feel like I’ve got a strike or two on me. It’s tough to hit like that. It’s tough to hit in a defensive mode. I’ve never been successful hitting on the defensive side. I’ve got to stay aggressive and expect it to turn.”
The Nationals’ lineup will have one change when they get to Atlanta. Catcher Wilson Ramos, as expected, will come off the disabled list and give Kurt Suzuki a break. Suzuki played 13 of 14 games with Ramos on the disabled, sitting only on Wednesday afternoon following a night game.
In the clubhouse Sunday evening, General Manager Mike Rizzo gave Jhonatan Solano a hug and said, “See you soon.” Solano, who will head back to Class AAA Syracuse as Ramos is activated, thanked him.