Adam LaRoche trying to pull out of slump

The Nationals’ offensive woes have been a full team effort no one player can be blamed for. Their hitters have taken turns as the one struggling more than the rest of them. Right now, despite a challenge from Anthony Rendon, it’s Adam LaRoche.

LaRoche is prone to slumps, anyway, and at present he’s in another wicked one. In July, LaRoche hit .159 with 19 strikeouts, six walks, two homers and just three multi-hit games. LaRoche is always a streaky hitter, good and bad, but the slumps are lasting longer than the streaks this year.

For the season LaRoche is hitting .232/.313/.405, and his .718 OPS ranks 24th out of 26 qualified major league first baseman. His 98 OPS+ is league average for any hitter, and for a first baseman it’s a problem. Per FanGraphs.com, LaRoche has collected 0.0 WAR – he’s playing at replacement level.

The difference between his performance last year and this year has contributed to the Nationals’ downfall. Last year, LaRoche smashed 33 homers, punched up a 127 OPS+ and finished sixth in the National League MVP race. He may have been about to turn 33, but the Nationals’ signing him to a two-year, $25 million deal seemed like a bargain, possible only because LaRoche was attached to draft-pick compensation.

Now, though, it is looking like a potential issue. An American League scout who follows the Nationals said he has seen LaRoche’s bat speed decrease this year. That may not be totally right or totally permanent. LaRoche often falls into slumps and appears cooked, only to snap out of it and carry an offense for a month or so.

“It feels like a lot of what I’ve been through throughout my career,” LaRoche said. “I go back and watch film, work on some small things, see if I can pinpoint it. For whatever reason it takes one good swing, one bloop hit and I can find it and get going.”

Even last year, the best season of his career, LaRoche fell into vicious spells when he may get one hit over 30 at-bats. His downswings this year have been just as violent but more prolonged. He’s one of the Nationals’ middle of the order bats, and they need him to get going.

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NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Louisville 3, Syracuse 0: Cole Kimball allowed no runs in one innings on no hits and a walk. Danny Espinosa went 1 for 3 with a double and two strikeouts. Zach Walters went 1 for 3 with a double.

Syracuse 3, Louisville 1: Danny Espinosa went 2 for 4. Corey Brown went 1 for 3 with a home run. Jhonatan Solano went 2 for 3 with a double. Yunesky Maya allowed one run in seven innings on three hits and no walks, striking out six.

Harrisburg 5, Trenton 3: In his second start at Class AA, A.J. Cole allowed no earned runs in six innings on four hits and three walks, striking out six. Tyler Heron allowed no runs in two relief innings on one hit and one walk, striking out four.

Potomac was off.

Hagerstown 4, Lakewood 2: Tony Renda went 2 for 4 with two doubles. Brandon Miller went 2 for 5 with a double. Craig Manuel went 2 for 4 with a double. Pedro Encarnacion allowed two runs in five innings on five hits and two walks, striking out seven.

Lowell 7, Auburn 0: Robert Orlan allowed six runs in four innings on eight hits and three walks, striking out two. Isaac Ballou and Cody Dent got Auburn’s only two hits, both singles.

Adam Kilgore covers national sports for the Washington Post. Previously he served as the Post's Washington Nationals beat writer from 2010 to 2014.
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