Adam LaRoche has a reputation for being a slow starter, but that may change after the first two months of 2014.
And the power-hitting first baseman, who came back from a quadriceps injury this week, hopes to be the much-needed middle of the lineup bat to spark the Nationals’ slumping offense.
LaRoche entered Wednesday’s game with a .314 batting average, 23 RBIs and six home runs in 2014.
While on the 15-day disabled list, LaRoche worked in the batting cages to keep his rhythm.
“I was able to hit throughout this thing,” said LaRoche, who crushed a two-run homer Monday — his second game back.
The quadriceps is closer to 100 percent, which is good news for a Nationals team that has struggled with Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper on the DL.
“You lose that power and having the threat of the big hitters coming up in those situations,” leadoff hitter Denard Span said.
Prior to Wednesday, Washington scored more than three runs only three times in its past 10 games — going 3-7 in that span. The Nationals have fallen to 21st in team batting average (.243) and 22nd in runs scored (198).
LaRoche’s production this early in the season is a bit surprising, given his history. In his previous 10 seasons, LaRoche ended May with a batting average above .250 only twice (2012, 2010).
His .314 average, if it holds in May’s final days, would be a career-best in the first two months of a season.
LaRoche could use help around him if Washington is going to keep pace in the NL East. The Nationals entered Wednesday three games back of the division-leading Braves.
“It’s a question of getting that big hit when we need it,” manager Matt Williams said. “It hasn’t happened yet for the most part.”