LaRoche Finds His Swing

First baseman leads the Nats in batting average this month

May 20, 2013

Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche entered Monday night’s game on a career-best 16-game hitting streak.

Adam LaRoche’s career is defined by peaks and valleys.

Just a month ago, LaRoche was in the midst of a slump that saw the slugger go without a hit in seven consecutive games. But since April ended, he has experienced one of the finest stretches of his career.

LaRoche entered Monday’s game against San Francisco with a career-best 16-game hitting streak. With his power lacking early in the year, the first baseman changed his approach at the plate.

“I’m seeing [the ball] longer and getting comfortable,” he said. “Hitting’s all about buying that extra split second to see the ball. When you’re not seeing it good, it feels like it’s coming 100 mph.”

Four of LaRoche’s seven home runs have came on the Nationals’ current West Coast trip. One came in the series finale against the Dodgers and the other three were hit against the Padres.

Entering Monday night’s game, LaRoche boasted a team-high .356 batting average and 1.028 OPS in May.

“He’s such a good hitter, and he’s such a smart hitter,” manager Davey Johnson said. “With him, it’s always just a little timing issue. He feels good about where he’s at.”

For his career, LaRoche has a .254 batting average in May. He usually heats up in the second half of the season; he hits above .290 in each of the last three months.

The 33-year-old’s discipline at the plate has helped him get hot a little earlier than usual.

During a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on May 12, the Cubs shifted their defense to LaRoche’s right to prepare for the left-handed pull hitter. Instead, LaRoche took a pitch placed on the outside corner down the third base line for a slow roller. Out of position, the Cubs’ defense was unable to throw LaRoche out at first, giving him an infield hit.

The more LaRoche reaches base, the more successful the Nationals’ offense will become.

“I’m being a little bit more patient overall, taking some walks and getting some better hitters’ counts,” LaRoche said. “For a while, for a week or two, it felt like I was 1-2 every at-bat and in a defensive mode. Getting back to seeing it again is nice.”

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Rudi Greenberg · May 20, 2013