LaRoche reached the milestone for the second time in his career — and became only the third Nationals player to do so — with a solo home run to right field in the sixth inning off reliever Josh Lindblom. The crowd continued cheering after LaRoche retreated to the dugout, drawing him out for a curtain call. The power-hitting mainstay of the Nationals’ lineup stood on the top step and tipped his helmet. The blast gave the Nationals a 2-1 lead.
Lombardozzi added to the cushion with an RBI single to center field later in the inning. Gorzelanny filled in well, striking out five batters and allowing only one run over 3 2/3 innings. The Nationals’ bullpen didn’t allow a run until Tyler Clippard surrendered a solo home run in the eighth to rookie Darin Ruf, his second of the game.
The Nationals added an insurance run in the eighth inning, one started by a DeRosa double that smashed off the center field wall, just short of his first home run of the season. DeRosa, beloved by his teammates, has endured a trying season filled with injuries and the death of his father. A home run, he said, would have meant a lot to him.
Teammates “were begging for it to go out, too,” DeRosa said. “I mean, I’m there every day, top step, for them, too, so I appreciate it.”
Later in the inning, Lombardozzi’s sacrifice fly scored Bernadina, who slid in under Erik Kratz’s tag for a 4-2 lead. Drew Storen pitched a quick ninth to notch the save.
For the Nationals, there’s no decided advantage to securing the NL’s top seed. As either of the top two seeds, the Nationals would begin the divisional series on the road because of a scheduling quirk in the playoff schedule. The addition of the one-game wild-card playoff means the Nationals, if they earn the top seed, would have less than 48 hours to travel to face their opponent once they learn who it is.
Some of the players said they shared Johnson’s feelings on the matter. It showed after the win, as most of the televisions in the clubhouse showed the New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox game and not the Reds-Cardinals game. They didn’t mind having to wait another game until they could continue their magical run into the postseason.
“I think we’re 50-50 on it,” LaRoche said. “I don’t know necessarily the advantage. We’re going to play to win tomorrow and either way we’re not in a bad spot. So I’d say we’re fine, whatever happens.”