(Mark J. Terrill/AP)

But the pain became more obvious throughout the game and LaRoche said it continued on Thursday. He took a couple swings off the tee to test out the oblique and didn’t taking batting practice. He was scratched roughly an hour before Thursday’s game against the Diamondbacks.

“My last at-bats [Wednesday], in the on-deck circle, I could feel it,” he said. “And [I] really didn’t think anything about it. And then coming in today, it was a lot tighter than it was yesterday.”

LaRoche was evaluated by team doctors but didn’t receive an MRI. exam. While neither LaRoche nor Manager Davey Johnson was sure how long it would take to heal, Johnson said the injury wasn’t as bad as teammate Mark DeRosa’s oblique strain. Johnson said LaRoche could be out two to three days.

LaRoche, the team’s leader in many offensive categories, was hitting .311 with four home runs and 17 RBI. The loss of his bat is another tough blow for a struggling and injured Nationals offense.

LaRoche said he has never dealt with any oblique issues before, but he has battled constant injuries since he signed a two-year contract with the Nationals last winter. LaRoche missed the final 4½ months of last season after undergoing surgery to repair the labrum in his left shoulder. This spring, LaRoche recovered from a bone bruise on his left foot.

“I know these [oblique] things can linger,” he said. “I hope we caught it early enough where we can knock it out shortly and get back out there, because obviously the timing couldn’t be any worse.”