Results tagged ‘ Adam LaRoche ’

Signature Moments of 2013: Wild Card Matchup #2

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With 86 wins in the books, the 2013 season had its share of lasting memories. We have seeded the top 10 in our book, and over the next few weeks we will be letting you vote in a bracket-style competition to determine the ultimate signature moment of the season. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the World Series for a new poll and to see which moments advanced on to the next round.

SigMomentsBracket_10.7

LOMBO LIFTS NATS | 6.4

With the Nationals trailing 2-1 late against the New York Mets, the bats came alive with a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning. Ryan Zimmerman led off the frame with a double and scored on a single by Adam LaRoche, who went to third on a double by Ian Desmond. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Steve Lombardozzi worked a nine-pitch at-bat before lifting a sacrifice fly down the left-field line, just deep enough to score LaRoche for the Nats first walk-off win of the 2013 season.

BRYCE IS BACK | 7.1

Exactly three months after the Nationals 2013 campaign began, Washington came to bat in the bottom of the first with Bryce Harper hitting third in its lineup – his first game back after missing more than a month due to injury. Harper took ball one, then rocketed a solo home run to put the Nationals in front, just as he did in his first at-bat on Opening Day.

BryceBack

What to Watch for: 9.28.13

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Washington Nationals (85-75) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (80-80)

RHP Dan Haren (9-14, 4.87) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (5-10, 4.64)

The Nationals hit two of the three longest home runs in baseball last night, as Wilson Ramos followed Jayson Werth’s three-run blast in the fifth inning (first, 448 feet) with one of his own in the eighth (third, 423 feet). Werth’s blast matched the longest of his career, also matching Ian Desmond’s August 14 drive off Tim Lincecum for the second-longest hit by a National this season. Desmond’s Kauffman Stadium blast 11 days later checks in as the longest by a Washington batter in 2013 at 455 feet.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Wilson Ramos C

7. Chad Tracy 1B

8. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

9. Dan Haren RHP

NAT WERTH

Jayson Werth is the only National Leaguer to rank in the top five in OPS (third, .935), slugging percentage (third, .535), batting average (fourth, .319) and on-base percentage (fifth, .400). At .935, Werth currently weighs in with the second-best OPS total in the Nationals nine-year history.

POWER SURGE

At the completion of play on September 1, Ryan Zimmerman was tied for 38th in the NL with 15 home runs. Zimmerman has hit 11 long balls and is currently tied for fifth in the NL with a team-leading 26 homers. Zimmerman’s 11 homers this month are the most in Major League Baseball (Hunter Pence, 10) and have established a Nationals record for the month of September. The only National to hit more home runs in single month: Alfonso Soriano – 12 in May, 2006.

20 x 5

Thanks to Ryan Zimmerman (26), Jayson Werth (25), Ian Desmond (20), Bryce Harper (20), and Adam LaRoche (20), the Nationals are one of three teams with a quintet of 20-homer bats, joining Atlanta and Toronto.

Improbabilities and Impossibilities

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by Noah Frank

“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” – Vince Lombardi

It is not impossible for the Nationals to make it to the postseason this year. The strange twists and turns of this season have left them looking up a steep hill, at tall odds stacked heavily against them. And while not impossible, the chance of them crashing the party remains highly improbable. Which is to say that they will need a number of improbabilities to swing their way, in succession, to defy those odds.

They got off to a good start on Tuesday.

Facing the prospects of a crushing loss in the opening game of the twinbill against the Braves, the Nationals did something no team has done in Craig Kimbrel’s 225 career appearances, scoring the three runs they needed to erase a two-run deficit to walk off with a 6-5 win. The Baseball Reference win probability chart had the Nats at eight percent to win in such a scenario entering the bottom of the ninth.

Leverage

The comeback was made even more amazing, and the result even more unlikely than the probabilities suggest, considering that Washington had yet to score against the Atlanta closer his 10 prior appearances against them this season. He had converted 37 straight save opportunities, a string that was going to end as soon as the ball left Denard Span’s bat, as his one-out grounder was going to be deep enough to score the tying run. But as Andrelton Simmons – the highest-rated defensive shortstop in baseball – pulled his glove up, the ball skipping untouched through his legs, the Nationals found themselves celebrating an even more unbelievable victory.

Denard Span keyed another improbable Nationals victory.

Denard Span keyed another improbable Nationals victory in game one.

The long odds didn’t end in game one, though. After Tanner Roark, perhaps the unlikeliest figure in this late season charge, delivered seven scoreless frames in the nightcap, Washington clung to a 1-0 lead heading to the bottom of the eighth. The Braves turned to Jordan Walden, who had allowed just one run in eight prior appearances against the Nats, coming on a solo shot by Ryan Zimmerman. The Z-Man took an encore roundtripper to double the lead, then Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche combined to plate two more runs as the Nationals put the game away.

Against the two relievers who had dominated them the most this season, the Nationals suddenly broke through for three runs apiece. Coming in, Walden and Kimbrel had combined to go 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA (1 ER/18.0 IP), four walks, 22 strikeouts and a perfect 7-for-7 in save chances in the season series. On Tuesday, they were 0-1 with a 22.50 ERA (5 ER/2.0 IP), with two walks, no strikeouts and a blown save.

While Washington has no realistic chance to catch Atlanta in the division, the two wins ensured the Braves could not clinch the NL East in Washington this week. Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds have continued to win in Houston, lowering the Nationals postseason chances to 3.3 percent, according to Baseball Prospectus, heading into play on Wednesday. However, the Pittsburgh Pirates have lost two straight, bringing them back into the picture as well. In order to tie the Reds or Pirates and force a one-game playoff to get to the Wild Card game, the Nationals would need to play out their remaining games with one of the following combinations from their opponents:

Improbabilities

While it seems unlikely that teams like Cincinnati or Pittsburgh, clubs which have played well all season, will collapse entirely, any of the top three combinations seem possible. Yes, it would require the Nationals to keep playing at the same rate they have over their last 12 games (in which they are 11-1) against stronger competition, including three games in St. Louis.

These are not probable outcomes. But, then again, after what happened on Tuesday at Nationals Park, we know that improbable does not equal impossible.

What to Watch for: 9.17.13 – Game Two

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Atlanta Braves (89-61) vs. Washington Nationals (80-70)

RHP Freddy Garcia (1-1, 1.32) vs. RHP Tanner Roark (6-0, 1.30)

(Note: Garcia is 4-6, 4.86 overall on the year)

In Game One of today’s twin bill, the Nationals jumped out to an early lead, only to watch Atlanta storm back to take a 5-3 advantage heading into the bottom of the ninth. Winless in six tries at home against the Braves this season, the Nationals put themselves in a position where they needed at least two runs to keep the game alive. Instead, they got three, becoming the first team in 225 tries to do as much damage against Braves closer Craig Kimbrel.

Adam LaRoche led off with a walk and Wilson Ramos followed by grinding out an eight-pitch at-bat, fighting back from 0-2 to drive a ball up the middle that second baseman Elliot Johnson got a glove to, but could not flip accurately to second base for the force. Jeff Kobernus ran for Ramos at first and Anthony Rendon drew another walk to load the bases with no outs for pinch-hitter Chad Tracy. The left-handed hitter pulled a hard chopper to first base, allowing LaRoche to score and cut the lead to one, the runners moving up to second and third.

Enter, Denard Span.

The center fielder had already extended his hitting streak to a career-high 27 games earlier in the afternoon, matching the longest streak in baseball this season. After taking ball one, he hit a grounder back up the middle, where the Braves defense was not playing in – playing not to lose, rather than to win. While the tying run would have scored on the play regardless, shortstop Andrelton Simmons pulled up on the ball, as it skipped through his legs untouched. Rendon motored around third to score behind Kobernus, and the Nationals snagged an enormous, 6-5 victory.

“I knew when I hit the ball, the game was tied for sure,” said Span after the raucous celebration on the Nationals Park infield. “For us to be able to get a win like that against their closer, and on our home field, it just felt really good.”

The win improved Washington’s record to 80-70, putting the Nats 10 games above .500 for the first time all season. It also staved off Atlanta’s chance to clinch the division title for another day, the NL East Magic Number remaining at four and the Reds second Wild Card elimination number still at eight.

Right-hander Tanner Roark will take the hill against veteran Freddy Garcia in the nightcap of the doubleheader.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche  1B

7. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

8. Jhonatan Solano C

9. Tanner Roark RHP

HEAR ME, ROARK

Tanner Roark has been brilliant since his call up from Triple-A Syracuse, posting a 6-0 record in 11 appearances. Roark has won each of his first two starts, allowing two earned runs in 12.0 innings of work. He sports a 1.30 ERA overall (5 ER/34.2 IP) with 26 strikeouts and just eight walks.

WE’RE GOING STREAKING

Denard Span extended his career-best hitting streak to 27 straight games in Game One, matching Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer for the longest in Major League Baseball this year

Meanwhile, Wilson Ramos will see his stretch of consecutive starts behind the plate come to an end a 24 games with Jhonatan Solano in at catcher in Game Two. The streak is two games longer than the next closest in baseball this season (Yadier Molina, 22).

What to Watch for: 9.14.13

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Philadelphia Phillies (68-79) vs. Washington Nationals (78-69)

LHP Cole Hamels (7-13, 3.45) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (10-6, 3.31)

When pretty much everything goes right – the offense, defense and pitching all clicking at once – good things usually happen. The Nationals have had all three aspects of the game working at the same time for arguably the first time all season over the past week, leading to their seven-game win streak entering Saturday night’s game with the Phillies. And if the last week has seemed particularly fun for Nationals fans, there’s a reason why.

Yes, Washington scored in each of the first two innings in three of their last four games. Yes, the Nats have out-homered their opponents 19-0 over the streak. But even more impressively, they have not trailed following an at-bat since the ninth inning of their last loss, last Friday night in Miami.

Really think about that. The only two times the Nationals have found themselves behind in the last week – down 1-0 after the top of the first inning Friday night against the Phillies, and 3-1 after the bottom of the second last Sunday in Miami – they have erased the deficit in the very next half inning, never to trail again. Since the beginning of play last Saturday, Washington has held a lead at the end of 51 of the 63 innings played.

The Nationals would love another quick start tonight, as they face off against Cole Hamels in a matchup of premier NL lefties, with Gio Gonzalez going for Washington. They will need another win to stay within four games in the loss column of Cincinnati, a 7-3 winner at Milwaukee earlier this afternoon.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Ian Desmond SS

5. Bryce Harper LF

6. Wilson Ramos C

7. Tyler Moore 1B

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Gio Gonzalez LHP

HOMER HAPPY

Ryan Zimmerman has homered nine times in his last 11 games, and has already matched the club record for home runs in the month of September. Adam LaRoche set that mark last season, but Zimmerman will have 15 more games this month to set a new mark. Zimmerman also now leads the Nationals in homers, something he has done outright only once before (24 in 2007). He also shared the team lead with 14 homers in ‘08.

20-20 VISION

Ian Desmond sits just a single steal shy of recording his second consecutive 20-20 season. He would be the first National to accomplish the feat more than once. Washington’s previous two 20-20 campaigns came from Desmond (25 HR, 21 SB) in ‘12 and Alfonso Soriano (46 HR, 41 SB) in ‘06. Only Carlos Gonzalez (26 HR, 21 SB), Mike Trout (23 HR, 32 SB) and Hunter Pence (22 HR, 21 SB) have already attained 20-20 status in ‘13.

NATS BY THE NUMBERS

Washington has homered in a season-high seven straight games. Jim Lett’s bullpen has tossed 19.0 consecutive scoreless innings. Washington is 14-7 (.667) in games not started by their original starting rotation (Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren and Ross Detwiler) in ‘13. Wilson Ramos has started a Nationals record 21 consecutive games behind the plate and is one game shy of matching the longest such streak of the season (Yadier Molina, 22) in Major League Baseball.

What to Watch for: 9.10.13

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Washington Nationals (74-69) vs. New York Mets (64-78)

RHP Jordan Zimmermann (16-8, 3.30) vs. RHP Dillon Gee (11-9, 3.53)

On any other night, a shutout backed by five home runs in a 9-0 whitewashing of an opponent would be cause for celebration in any clubhouse. But on Monday night in Flushing, Gio Gonzalez was left wondering what might have been, if only for a couple of measly inches.

After walking Daniel Murphy, the second batter of the game, Gonzalez settled into a groove against the Mets, going on to set down the next 17 men he faced. Meanwhile, the offense continued to pile up runs behind him, as five different Washington hitters went deep, just one home run shy of the club record. By the time he took the mound after the seventh-inning stretch at Citi Field, Gonzalez had a nine-run advantage and just nine outs left to record the first no-hitter in Nationals history.

The Mets had double-switched Murphy – arguably their best hitter, and certainly the one who had done the most damage to the Nationals, batting at a .385 clip (25-for-65) with seven extra-base hits against Washington – out of the game. That left it to pinch-hitter Zach Lutz, who entered the game with all of 11 Major League plate appearances this year and 22 in his career.

Lutz slapped at a first-pitch fastball and hit a soft liner to the right side, just over the first base bag. Adam LaRoche went into an all-out dive, but came up just short of snagging the ball on the fly. As it escaped his grasp, it bounced on the chalk line, then skipped up the right field line, dashing Gonzalez’s hopes for history. The southpaw hardly let it affect the rest of his performance, though, walking just one more batter en route to his second career shutout and the low-hit game of his professional career.

Lutz

“It’s fun to be a part of something like that,” said Ryan Zimmerman, who homered in the first inning for his fourth roundtripper in the last three games. “It makes you want to make a play. Everyone wants to be a part of history.”

As for Gonzalez, what was his first thought when he saw Lutz’s liner escape LaRoche’s reach?

“Foul,” he joked, but later took the greater context in perspective. “It’s a bittersweet moment. You’re happy you got the win. The team did great, everybody looked alive today. It’s just a sad moment when you lose a no-hitter down the line.”

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Ian Desmond SS

5. Adam LaRoche 1B

6. Wilson Ramos C

7. Tyler Moore LF

8. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

9. Jordan Zimmermann RHP

THE KING OF QUEENS

Gio Gonzalez allowed just one hit and two walks while striking out eight in his first shutout of the season and second of his career. Gonzalez joins Ramon Ortiz, Jason Bergmann, and Scott Olsen as the fourth pitcher in Nationals history (‘05-present) to take a no-hitter into the seventh inning. The shutout was the 10th by a Nationals pitcher since 2005 and just the second one-hit shutout in Nationals history, along with Jordan Zimmermann’s gem over the Reds on April 26 this season.

BIG (FLY) 5

The Nationals tied a 2013 single-game high by clubbing five home runs, including back-to-back shots by Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman to lead off the game. The Washington club record for one game is six, last matched in back-to-back contests September 4-5, 2012 vs. the Cubs.

ATTENTION: SPAN

Denard Span has hit safely in a career-high 20 straight games at a .410 (34-for-83) clip with five walks, three doubles, two triples, two homers, 14 runs scored and seven RBI. Span’s surge has raised his batting average from .258 to .282, just one point off his career average. Span’s 20-game streak is the longest active streak and tied for the third-longest streak overall in Major League Baseball this season (Cuddyer – 27, Ortiz – 27, Freese – 20).

Getting Defensive

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To this point in the season, Denard Span’s diving grab in deep left-center field at Nationals Park with two on and two out in the ninth on August 14 has been the signature defensive moment of the year. But Wednesday night in Philadelphia, the Nationals made not one, but two game-saving plays, with each coming from unlikely sources.

The Nationals had just scratched out a run in the top of the eighth to take a 3-2 lead, when, in the bottom half of the frame, the Phillies put runners at first and second with two outs. Speedy leadoff man Cesar Hernandez chopped a ball to the right side of the infield, which Adam LaRoche made a play for, but could not reach. Steve Lombardozzi was shifting to his left at a deeper angle and tracked the ball down on the lip of the outfield grass, but with LaRoche moving away from first, the only person left to cover the bag was pitcher Jordan Zimmermann. As the footrace to the base began, it became clear that if Washington couldn’t get the final out of the inning, John Mayberry Jr. was going to score the tying run from second. Zimmermann and Hernandez converged at first, as Lombardozzi’s throw came in low. The pitcher simultaneously found the bag with his right foot and picked the ball on a short-hop out of the dirt, beating the runner by a fraction of a step to end the frame.

“I was just hoping Lombo was going to hit me in the chest,” explained Zimmermann after the game, then took the chance to rib his teammate. “Instead, he threw it at my feet and made it interesting.”

As for the dig out of the dirt, Zimmermann credited the one man on the right side of the infield not in on the play, tongue still in cheek.

“I’ve gotta give a lot of credit to Rochey. He taught me everything I know.”

Even Zimmermann that he wasn’t looking at the ball all the way into his glove on the play, as the replay showed his head was “in the third deck” as he made the play. Craig Stammen, who would play a role in the second defensive gem of the night, wasn’t about to let his teammate off the hook so easily.

“I told him, ‘Nice play, you should have seen it,’” joked the right-hander, who came on to get the final two outs of the eighth.

Those two outs would come on the same play, but in truly unique, bizarre fashion. In fact, with all the baseball he’s seen in his 70 years on the planet, this one was new even to manager Davey Johnson.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a double play that way,” he said.

With one out and runners at the corners, Stammen bounced a two-strike slider to Darin Ruf, who swung and missed for strike three. With a runner at first, Ruf could not attempt to advance, marking the second out of the frame. But the ball skipped away to catcher Jhonatan Solano’s left, with the runner, Chase Utley, breaking for home. Solano raced to corral the ball, in foul territory slightly up the third base line, but when he glanced up to see if Stammen was at the plate in time for the tag, he elected instead to try to make the play himself, diving towards Utley – who was diving toward the plate – and applying the tag to Utley’s midsection just before the runner’s hands crossed the plate.

Together, they formed two tremendous, non-traditional defensive gems, the first saving the go-ahead run from scoring and the second preventing the game-tying run from crossing the plate. They added up to a crucial victory, giving Washington the road series win in Philadelphia as they continue this crucial, three-city September road trip.

What to Watch for: 9.4.13

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Washington Nationals (71-68) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (63-76)

RHP Jordan Zimmermann (15-8, 3.33) vs. RHP Roy Halladay (2-4, 7.94)

It wasn’t until this week that Jayson Werth finally amassed enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, his name suddenly appearing in the middle of stat packs across the National League. Perhaps that’s part of the reason his season, at age 34, has flown under the radar to some degree. But if Werth can continue to stay hot over the season’s final three weeks, he may etch his name into the baseball history books.

Entering play on Wednesday night in Philadelphia, following his team-leading 40th multi-hit game of the season on Tuesday, Werth was batting .321, just nine points off the league lead, held by the Braves Chris Johnson. But back to those multi-hit games – Werth has only played in 106 contests this season, due to a few lingering, minor injuries early on. That means he has collected multiple hits in 37.73 percent of his games, trailing only St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter (39.85) in such a percentage among the National League’s top 20 in multi-hit performances.

Not a fan of batting average as a metric? Werth’s .396 on-base percentage ranks fifth in the NL, his .526 slugging percentage fourth. A mechanical change in his approach – lifting his hands higher, so that they don’t have to travel up, then down through his swing – has helped him shorten the time from decision to contact, and the results speak for themselves.

“I think he’s a better hitter than he was over here,” said Nationals Manager Davey Johnson, referring to Werth’s days in Philadelphia. “He’s as good as I’ve ever seen him.”

Since July 1, Werth is batting .367/.451/.607 over a span of 233 plate appearances. If he continued at that pace for the season’s final 24 games, he would get 100 more plate appearances and finish at .330 (actually .3297, or 153-for-464), almost exactly what Atlanta’s Johnson is batting today. It will be another race worth keeping an eye on over the season’s final few weeks. 

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Adam LaRoche 1B

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Wilson Ramos C

7. Corey Brown LF

8. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

9. Jordan Zimmermann RHP

I TOOK A WALK

The Nationals drew a season-high nine walks, two with the bases loaded, en route to their 9-6 triumph over the Phillies. Adam LaRoche accounted for three of the free passes, including the second of the back-to-back walks that scored runs.

ATTENTION SPAN

Denard Span has hit safely in a career-high 16 straight games at a .415 (27-for-65) clip with five walks, three doubles, two triples, a homer, 10 runs scored and five RBI. Span’s surge has raised his season batting average from .258 to .278. He is currently tied with Adam LaRoche, (May 2-19) for the longest hit streak by a National in 2013.

SECOND HARVEST

Starting tonight, three Washington farm clubs will begin postseason play:

• Harrisburg (AA) - Eastern League West Division Champions – vs. Erie (DET)

• Potomac (A) - Carolina League North Division Champions – vs. Lynchburg (ATL)

• Hagerstown (A) - South Atlantic League North Division Champions (first half) – at West Virginia (PIT)

What to Watch for: 9.2.13

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Washington Nationals (69-67) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (62-75)

RHP Stephen Strasburg (6-9, 2.96) vs. LHP Cole Hamels (6-13, 3.58)

The Nationals staved off a sweep with a three-run eighth inning to complete a 6-5, come-from-behind win over the Mets to help them close back within 6.5 games of the final postseason spot with 26 games remaining in the regular season. Washington hits the road for a crucial 10-game swing through Philadelphia (3), Miami (3) and New York (4) beginning tonight. Stephen Strasburg and Cole Hamels match up in the series opener at Citizens Bank Park.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Bryce Harper CF

2. Scott Hairston LF

3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

4. Jayson Werth RF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Stephen Strasburg RHP

A WERTH-Y NAME ENTERS NL BATTING CHASE

After missing 28 games earlier this season due to a right hamstring strain, Jayson Werth finally appears among National League batting leaders. Werth’s .323 batting average currently ranks fourth in the Senior Circuit and trails only Michael Cuddyer (.328), Chris Johnson (.329) and Yadier Molina (.333).

ATTENTION SPAN

Denard Span has hit safely in a career-high 15 straight games at a .407 (24-for-59) clip with five walks, two doubles, two triples, a homer, eight runs scored and 5 RBI, Span’s surge has raised his batting average from .258 to .275. This marks the fifth double-digit hit streak of Span’s career. The longest streak posted by a Nationals player in ‘13: Adam LaRoche, 16 games (May 2-19).

BETTER BALL

At 17-11 (.607), the Nationals have the NL’s 3rd-best record in since August 1st…a closer look:

1. Dodgers: 24-6 (.800)

2. Braves: 20-8 (.714)

3. Nationals: 17-11 (.607)

District 9: Adam LaRoche

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We are putting our own spin on the traditional “10 Questions” format this season. To mix it up a little, we are asking players, front office members, coaches, prospects and others nine questions we think you’d like to know the answer to, then bringing you their responses in written and video form. This Q&A originally appeared in Volume 6, Issue 7 of Inside Pitch.

1. After the first two months, how would you describe your 2013 season?

I can tell you I had a lot more fun month two than I did month one. I’m getting closer to where I want to be with each day and each game that goes by.

2. How have your years of experience helped you and your teammates stay relaxed through the good times and bad?

It’s great because I can relay to these guys the importance of not panicking over a small slump. The longer I’ve played, the more I know that when I look back at the year the numbers will be fine, and the production will be there. There’s nothing to worry about.

3. Even when you’re struggling, discuss how your defense never takes a day off.

It is two separate parts of the game. You’ve got to be able to learn not take a bad at-bat into the field, and to not take an error in the field to your next at-bat. If you’re not hitting, you can at least do something productive.

NATSST_02162013_DM

4. Does the fact that the baseball carries farther in warmer weather give you more confidence at the plate?

It’s almost like going to smaller ballparks. The ball flies, so even if you’re in a deep rut there’s a little bit of hope in the back of your mind. You’re thinking, ‘Man, I could miss one here and still hit it off the wall or hit a home run.’ It’s the same thing when it warms up.

5. With the heat rising, do you anticipate your teammates getting hot as well?

They say hitting can be contagious, and I’ve actually seen it over and over. A couple guys get going and other guys get going at the same time. That’s just a part of baseball.

6. With three multi-home run games to your credit already this season, is it any coincidence that you hit them in bunches?

It may have something to do with getting the first one early and going up with a little differ­ent outlook. Confidence is everything in this game. Once you hit one and you’re feeling good that day, you get into that groove.

7. You’ve won a Gold Glove Award and a Silver Slugger Award. What would it mean to you to add an All-Star appearance to your career accomplishments?

I thought last year I had a good shot — at least I was in the conversation. If and when that happens it would be pretty special to add to the list.

8. As you’ve grown up, how have you found the balance between baseball, family life and your offseason, off-the-field pursuits?

It has been easy for me, it always has. Without going into crazy detail, I’m a religious person. I feel like this is why I was put in this position of playing baseball … to be an influence. I choose not to let the game of baseball dictate who I am as a person.

9. What is it like having your son Drake with you on the road?

It’s awesome. Do you want to interview him?

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