LaRoche produced a game-tying, run-scoring double in the eighth
inning and a go-ahead RBI single in the ninth as the Washington
Nationals rallied past the Houston Astros 4-3 at Minute Maid Park.
With a career March/April on-base-plus slugging percentage of .717,
59 points lower than any other month of the season, LaRoche has a
reputation for sluggish breaks from the gate. By finishing 2-for-5
with two RBIs, LaRoche has hit in 11 of his last 12 games and 21 of
25 games this season. His April OPS: .908.
"It's good for him because he's not traditionally a fast starter,"
Nationals manager Matt Williams said of LaRoche, whose 17 RBIs are
tied for the club lead with third baseman Anthony Rendon. "He really
focused on it in spring training and really focused on driving one
in. He's going to hit homers with guys on base but that one's big
for us as evidenced tonight. If he can do that, the homers will
come; he'll hit his share of homers. But when he can consistently
drive runs in like that we're a better team."
For a second consecutive start, Astros right-hander Jarred Cosart
departed with a lead only to see the opposition rally against the
LaRoche doubled to left-center field off left-hander Raul Valdes,
brought in specifically to face the left-handed-hitting LaRoche in
the eighth. In the ninth, LaRoche slapped a single to center off
righty Josh Fields (0-3).
"No mine (his approach) doesn't change a whole lot," LaRoche said.
"I'm trying to drive the ball. I naturally have a fly ball swing so
I don't really have to force balls into the air a whole lot.
"Jayson (Werth) had a great at-bat and I was looking for something
up and over the plate and he eventually gave me two of them. I
fouled one off."
LaRoche went 0-for-3 against Cosart, who allowed two runs on five
hits and two walks while striking out six over six innings. After
creating a mess in the sixth, Cosart struck out Kevin Frandsen and
left leading 3-2.
The Houston bullpen recorded its sixth blown save opportunity of
"It's very concerning, because our starting pitcher did a very good
job," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "You feel like you are in
position to win the game, you have the right guys matched up, and
you just don't get it done. And then their bullpen comes in and
closes you out.
"But we're going to continue to give them opportunities. We
understand their strengths, and we'll put them into positions to be
successful, and tonight, that just didn't happen."
Washington right-handed relievers Craig Stammen and Tyler Clippard
(2-2) held the Astros hitless through the seventh and eighth
innings. Nationals closer Rafael Soriano earned his fifth save by
working around a pair of two-out walks in the ninth.
[to top of second column]
Astros rookie right fielder George Springer, who entered play
batting .170 with just two RBIs in 12 games, delivered a critical
two-out, two-run single to left field in the third, a sharp line
drive that plated Dexter Fowler and Jason Castro and pushed the
Astros to a 3-2 lead.
Third baseman Matt Dominguez delivered the first hit of the game off
Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, opening the third with a double.
Fowler plated Dominguez with a single three batters later and after
Castro doubled to left-center field, Springer delivered his two-run
In the first inning, Cosart hung an 0-2 breaking ball that Werth
deposited into the left field seats for a two-out, solo homer, his
fourth. In the third, after plunking Frandsen with a pitch, Cosart
surrendered a run-scoring double to nine-hole hitter, catcher Jose
Lobaton, that doubled the deficit.
"The big leagues are a game of mistakes, and I had a curveball pop
out of my hand in the first for the Werth home run," Cosart said.
"And then I wanted to go away to Lobaton, but I cut it back across.
That's kind of the story of the damage."
Gonzalez fanned nine and allowed three runs in six innings.
NOTES: The Nationals optioned RHP Taylor Jordan to Triple-A Syracuse
and recalled RHP Ryan Mattheus. By optioning Jordan (0-3, 5.61 ERA),
the Nationals cleared a spot in their rotation for RHP Doug Fister,
who is slated to return from the 15-day disabled list and start May
7 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Fister is out due to a right lat
strain. ... Nationals OF Bryce Harper underwent surgery Tuesday to
repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. Harper, who
will be sidelined six to eight weeks, suffered the injury sliding
into third base Friday against the San Diego Padres. ... Astros
manager Bo Porter announced that he hopes to set his weekend
pitching rotation Wednesday. Houston RHP Scott Feldman is set to
return from the DL this weekend when the Astros host the Seattle
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