Adam LaRoche was out of the starting lineup for the second straight night with the flu, according to Manager Davey Johnson, and could miss Sunday’s series finale if he doesn’t improve.
Johson said he spoke with LaRoche, who “is real achy, the after-effects of having a rough night with the flu. He’s going to come in and stay in the back and stay away from everybody. And if need him to come out and decoy or something like that he’ll be able to come out.”
Chad Tracy made his second straight start at first in LaRoche’s place . Productive as a pinch-hitter and fill-in a year ago, Tracy has struggled this season. The Nationals made a move to address their bench two weeks ago by trading for Scott Hairston, a right-handed batter who mashes left-handed pitching.
But even though left-handed portion of the bench is scuffling — Roger Bernadina is hitting .187 and Tracy is hitting .149 — the Nationals still believe Tracy’s track record outweighs his current struggles. General Manager Mike Rizzo threw water on the idea that the Nationals would want to also address their slumping left-handed bench.
“Chad Tracy is a good left-handed pinch hitter,” Rizzo said. “No doubt in my mind. … It’s a very difficult job to come off the bench and pinch hit. He has shown throughout his career that he does it well.”
Tracy went 0 for 4 on Friday night but notched hits in his previous two pinch-hit at-bats. One of the best hitting benches a season ago, the Nationals are 19th in the majors with a .205 average pinch-hitting. They have produced only seven pinch-hit RBI, the 10th lowest total in the majors.
“I look at him as a guy that gets the bat out front. I mean, the reason where we’re at is a lot of little things,” Johnson said. “The starting pitching is not quite where it was last year. The bullpen wasn’t quite was it was last year. The bench not productive like it was two years. All those things kinda add up. Not hitting like we’re capable of hitting.”
With LaRoche unavailable, Johnson joked that Steve Lombardozzi could be a back-up first baseman. When the Nationals acquired Hairston and sent Tyler Moore to the minor leagues, Johnson said he would consider Hairston and Lombardozzi as other options at first base if needed. Johnson told Lombardozzi to borrow a first baseman’s glove from Tracy on Saturday. During batting practice Lombardozzi, a second and third baseman who learned left field last season, could be seen with the glove, along with his infielder’s glove.