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LaRoche’s long-awaited walk-off moment

Aug 19, 2014, 12:21 AM EST

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It used to cross Adam LaRoche’s mind when he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning, or later, and realized a home run would win the game for his team. But at some point over the last 11 years, he realized it was doing him no good to worry about it.

Besides, it had to happen eventually, right? Stick around this league long enough, and keep hitting 20-plus homers every season, and one of them was bound to produce a walk-off victory.

“You know, you get to a point where you really stop thinking about it,” he said. “I just felt like I had been snakebit. It seems like any of my ninth-inning homers have come on the road. I just haven’t been able to do it at home.”

Well, LaRoche can now cross that long-awaited event off his bucket list.

With a towering blast off the facade of the second deck in right field late Monday night, the veteran first baseman gave his Nationals yet another dramatic victory in a week full of them. His solo shot off Diamondbacks reliever Will Harris secured a 5-4, 11-inning win, the Nationals’ seventh straight, their third straight in walk-off fashion.

“Took me long enough,” the understated LaRoche said. “It’s a good feeling.”

Everything feels good for the Nationals right now, even if they’ve been forced to bounce back from some soul-crushing meltdowns late to ultimately emerge victorious.

On Sunday, they watched Rafael Soriano give up three runs in the top of the ninth, only to come back and tie the game in the bottom of the inning, then win it in the 11th. On Monday, with Soriano shelved after pitching five of the last six days, they watched Tyler Clippard blow his save opportunity, serving up a top-of-the-ninth homer to David Peralta.

And yet once again, they bounced back from that punch to the gut. Though not before escaping a harrowing jam in the top of the 11th.

Craig Stammen, only 48 hours removed from a 3-inning relief appearance, loaded the bases with nobody out and found himself one lazy fly ball, one slow roller, one wild pitch away from giving up the go-ahead run. Yet somehow the right-hander wriggled his way out of it unscathed, striking out both Jake Lamb and Didi Gregorius before getting Cliff Pennington to ground out.

It was the kind of escape act that helps define a 7-game winning streak.

“It just feels like every break is going our way,” Stammen said. “You don’t get out of a bases-loaded jam very often. That’s a once-in-25-time thing.”

It did leave the Nationals fired up when they returned to the dugout for the bottom of the 11th inning, momentum very much in their possession.

“When I go into games like that, I always tell myself to keep the momentum on my side, try to get it back, get them in the dugout fast,” Stammen said. “I didn’t really do that. But loading the bases and getting out of it, I guess, motivated Adam enough to hit a home run.”

“It’s nothing a pitcher ever wants to get into,” LaRoche said. “But for him to grind back right there … that could’ve easily been a disastrous inning with the bases loaded and nobody out. To fight back and make those pitches to get us back into the dugout, it was big for us.”

It was trumped only by LaRoche’s heroics a few minutes later. At the plate with two out and nobody on, he worked the count to 3-1 against Harris. That situation pretty much always calls for a fastball, but Harris thought he could surprise LaRoche and sneak a curveball over the plate.

“I guess maybe in the back of his head, he thought he might be getting an off-speed pitch, that I’d be pitching around him with a righty on deck,” Harris said.

Truth be told, LaRoche admittedly was surprised by the breaking ball.

“Honestly, the last thing I’m looking for right there is a 3-1 curveball,” he said. “I just happened to see it really good.”

As the ball soared into the night, LaRoche tossed his bat and looked at the Nationals’ dugout, then made a trip around the bases he had waited 11 years to experience.

The 236th home run of his career was the first that featured a throng of teammates waiting for him at the plate, the first that led directly to an on-field interview, the first that was capped by a Gatorade bath.

And if LaRoche has his way, this won’t be his last.

“Hopefully,” he said, “this is the start of a few more.”

  1. RickH - Aug 19, 2014 at 12:27 AM

    Congrats, Adam!!!

  2. Section 222 - Aug 19, 2014 at 1:25 AM

    What a great game tonight. Not quite as epic as last night, but quite exciting in the late innings once again. And for those who like dramatic homers, this was the game for you. Nothing like a walkoff to reward the crowd, those few who came and those fewer who stayed.

    Once again a pitchers’ duel through 5 and then all Hades broke loose. After reading some of the comments in the game post and instant analysis, I have a few thoughts on the pitching choices. There’s a huge amount of second guessing going on, but I liked Williams’ choices tonight, and I liked his explanation in the postgame presser too. He said, essentially, this was a winnable game and I went with the guys I thought could win it for us. Maybe he thought Clip was the better choice than Drew to close the game. Can anyone really argue with that? Clip didn’t pitch Saturday so he could go for a second day in a row. There was no reason to rest both Sori and Clip in a game that we led in the 9th.

    And by the way, it’s just pure speculation to assume that Drew would have closed out the game where Clip failed. He wasn’t that sharp tonight, and he would been facing the lefties in the heart of the lineup (Peralta and Montero), which Clip is much better suited to do. Any of our other pitchers might have done better than Clip, but then again, they might have given up two runs rather than one and lost the game.

    As for going with Stammen in the 11th, the reason was obvious. The pitcher’s spot batted in the 10th, so MW wanted to go with someone in extras who could pitch two innings before that spot in the order came up again. Det pitched two innings yesterday so Stammen had to take the ball. And yes, it would have been nice to give him another night’s rest, but he came through in one of the gutsiest relief performances of the season Very impressive.

    On that point, make sure to check out Stammen’s comments on the postgame show. Kolko asked him if all these exciting games were tough on the bullpen. His answer, essentially: ” Nah. All seven of us want to pitch with the game on the line. That’s what we live for.” No mention of being tired, needing more rest, having to pitch on just one day’s rest after a three inning outing.

    One other thing, there was a whole lot of heat in the game post about Bryce’s TOOTBLAN in the 5th. By the way, this site is hilarious:

    It was a stupid play for sure, but to assume that if Bryce had stayed put at first base he would have scored a run and won the game in 9 innings is ridiculous. Sure, Ramos got a single after his TOOTBLAN, but then Cabrera grounded out and JZnn struck out. That would have left it up to Span, who is great these days, but there’s no way you can assume he would have driven Bryce in. In fact, odds are he wouldn’t have.

    All in all, another great win. I’ll be back out there tomorrow. Walkoff No. 4?

    • llf0701 - Aug 19, 2014 at 5:58 AM

      Love the Tootblan site! Says it all.

    • BurnedOnce - Aug 19, 2014 at 7:15 AM

      Bryce would have easily gone first to third on Ramos’s hit and home on Cabrera’s ground out. Absolutely no doubt. The aggressiveness should have come on Ramos hit. That would have resulted in a run, not the little league hubris at first.

      • Section 222 - Aug 19, 2014 at 7:28 AM

        You’re as certain as you are nasty in your attack on Bryce. But it’s all speculation as I’m sure you know. Ramos might swing at a different pitch with a man on, Bryce might slip going to second, the infield is playing Cabrera differently and they are definitely pitching him differently with a guy on third. The list goes on and on and on.

      • zmunchkin - Aug 19, 2014 at 8:06 AM

        Nonsense – and for a simple reason. If Bryce is still on first, instead of the dugout, the way the pitcher approaches Ramos is different – the most obvious being throwing out of the stretch. Perhaps Ramos strikes out; perhaps he hits a HR; perhaps Williams calls for a hit and run and Hill is covering second and turns a double play on the sharply hit ball.

        Teams adapt based on what has happened so far – both of them. So thinking that everything else remains the same is just plain silly.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 19, 2014 at 8:14 AM

        All that is true enough. What is undeniable is that the odds of scoring from first are much better than from the dugout (staying as far away from the manager as you can get).

      • Section 222 - Aug 19, 2014 at 8:56 AM

        No question about that Sofa. But here’s what BurnedOnce said last night:

        “Why am I not in traffic heading home after a 5-4 win in 8.5 innings? Because Harper is full of himself. If we lose it’s on him. If we win it will be in spite of him. Even if he scores the winning run because his team had to work extra because of his boneheadedness.”

        Talk about selfish. Gee guy, sorry you had to hang around and witness an exciting walkoff win instead of heading home at 9:45 pm. Bryce should be drawn and quartered for making you stay up past your bedtime. Next time, just sit on your couch. It’ll be a lot easier on you.

        Everyone should check out the TOOTBLAN tumbler. Funny as hell, and educational too. Guess who the leaders in TOOTBLANs this year are? Starling Marte and Yasiel Puig. Bryce is tied for 4th, with Billy Hamilton and Brian Dozier. These are exciting young players with enormous talent, not selfish, boneheaded ne’er do wells. There are over 50 players with at least 7 this year (Harper has 11).

        One thing I will say — Harper undoubtedly leads the league in TOOTBLANs per AB.

    • adcwonk - Aug 19, 2014 at 8:48 AM

      Well put, 222. I tried to explain that (re: pitching choices) last night, but, here, you’re explaining it better. I think you’re spot on.

      And, we have Blevins, Det, and Soriano for tonight if we need them.

      • Section 222 - Aug 19, 2014 at 9:00 AM

        Watching at home, I often forget to take where the lineup stands into account. When you’re at the park, that asterisk next to the next guy up is staring you right in the face. Makes some of the moves a lot easier to understand.

  3. laddieblahblah - Aug 19, 2014 at 3:54 AM

    “He said, essentially, this was a winnable game and I went with the guys I thought could win it for us. Maybe he thought Clip was the better choice than Drew to close the game. Can anyone really argue with that?”

    Absolutely not. His job is to give the team its best chance to win. It’s a judgment call, and he’s the guy who has to make it.

    La Roche and Werth are making this a special season. Has anyone ever seen La Roche with a bigger grin on his face? The whole team is contributing, except for Ryan, but those 2 guys are clutch, clutch, clutch. Three come-from-behind walk-offs in a row? Are you kidding? Who does that?

    As of now, they need play only slightly better than .500 ball to reach 90 wins. Just staying healthy from here on out will do it. They have the best overall team in baseball.They are finally showing how good they really are. Cabrera has been the final piece solidifying the starting lineup. Thornton has filled a hole in the pen. They have no real weak spots in the lineup, or on the field.

    But Gio is still struggling, and the pen has been a bit shaky of late. And the defense has not been what it should be, either. The bench could be stronger, but the pieces are now there, too.

    Yet they are still winning, and they can play even better than they have been. Matt has been doing a heckuva job, especially for a rookie. These Nats are showing how ready, willing, and able they really are.

    • npb99 - Aug 19, 2014 at 5:47 AM

      RZ isn’t contributing, but the way this lineup’s playing, there’s no spot for him anyway.

      • Section 222 - Aug 19, 2014 at 7:30 AM

        There’s always a spot for RZ if he’s healthy. Cabrera will make a heckuva a bench bat.

        But this is the lineup we may have for the rest of the year.

    • natsfan1a - Aug 19, 2014 at 7:30 AM

      Eh, Zimm contributes his dugout presence when they’re home. He’s not on the field, but they feel him, I’m sure.

      • npb99 - Aug 19, 2014 at 9:59 AM

        Wow, folks are testy about references to Zimmerman. But seriously, where would he play? Back at 3B and the constant risk of errors?

      • Hiram Hover - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:31 AM

        Well, “constant risk” and “constant errors” are not the same thing.

        Agreed that there were a lot of hold your breath moments, but Zim played 3B adequately after Bryce returned in late June. He had 1 error at 3B in 14 games until he was injured again in late July.

        So yes, he would play 3B.

      • zmunchkin - Aug 19, 2014 at 12:41 PM

        I agree Hiram. Zim played a passable third base. Clearly not what he used to do, or as good as Rendon. But IMO having his bat in the lineup makes up for the decreased fielding ability.

        And if he can learn to always throw with his sidearm motion that supposedly does not cause him ny pain and is less likely to result in a bad throw, all the better.

  4. wearenationals - Aug 19, 2014 at 5:43 AM

    I am really enjoying these walk-offs. It’s not good for my blood pressure, but it’s good training for October.

    • llf0701 - Aug 19, 2014 at 6:01 AM

      I feel like every game is the bottom of the ninth of the last game in the World Series! Definitely not good for BP but so much fun!

  5. Joe Seamhead - Aug 19, 2014 at 7:06 AM

    Unsung hero award last night goes to this Yankee castoff guy Thornton, who came in to relieve JZimm. This guy has quietly gone out there since he got here and done the job.
    Clippard faltered.
    Storen pushed the envelope.
    Stamman went to the edge of the cliff and peered over before edging slowly away.
    I thought for a moment that Cabrera had won it for the Nats in the bottom of the 9th with the shot he hit to deep center.
    ALR looked as happy as I’ve ever seen him look in the post game interview. Thanks, Davey, for pushing so hard to get Adam re-signed.
    This has got to be getting pretty frustrating for Melvin and the boys down in Atlanta.

    • adcwonk - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:54 AM

      Indeed, Thornton has been amazing for us, so far.

      Six appearances, 5.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K’s, ERA 0.00, WHIP 0.536

      If I recall — he’s been throwing in the upper 90’s, no? 96, 97?

  6. natsfan1a - Aug 19, 2014 at 7:27 AM

    Next up, a mound appearance. But feel free take your time getting to that one, too, Adam. 😉

    “Well, LaRoche can now cross that long-awaited event off his bucket list.”

    • Section 222 - Aug 19, 2014 at 7:31 AM

      Maybe MW will give him a shot in the late innings of a late September game, after we’ve clinched. :-)

    • NatsLady - Aug 19, 2014 at 7:35 AM

      16-1 blowout of the DBacks with Adam pitching the top of the ninth? I’ll take that tonight for my unexpected day off….

  7. natsfan1a - Aug 19, 2014 at 7:31 AM

    p.s. What did Drake say?

  8. scnatsfan - Aug 19, 2014 at 8:08 AM

    I usually see the negative when looking at this team but right now I’m having to look real hard to see things I don’t like. They are there, sure, but I’m blinded by all the good I see.

    • adcwonk - Aug 19, 2014 at 8:46 AM

      Good! As it should be!

      Every team has holes and weaknesses. No team this year is like the 1927 Yankees.

      But the Nats appear to have the deepest team with the fewest holes — which is why they have the best record in the NL.

  9. Joe Seamhead - Aug 19, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    Reality Explosion concerning Adam LaRoche:

    1st on the team in OBP,SLG. OPS, BB’s, IBB’s
    2nd in HR’s, 2nd in RBI’s [Tied with Rendon]
    4th in Run Scored

    Not bad for a guy that many wanted to put out to pasture.

    • natsjackinfl - Aug 19, 2014 at 9:28 AM

      One of the regular posters was all over his “obvious” declining talents just 4 weeks ago.

    • stoatva - Aug 19, 2014 at 9:48 AM

      Or, y’know….give him a day or two off.

  10. Muddy Ruel - Aug 19, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    Can there be any further doubt that Bryce is the ultimate Hot Dog? He’s way underachieving in 2014.He gets a hit and he’s gonna show how cool he is at the expense of his team, which places a distant second or lower on his priority list. It’s all about him. He’s a 12-year old mentally. Adam Jones was right to bring all those hot dogs to the TV booth during Bryce’s last session at the 2013 Home Run Derby.

    • npb99 - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:03 AM

      Ah, come on. The kid’s from Las Vegas. He’s a gambler. Last night he was caught in a bluff.

    • Section 222 - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:13 AM

      Is your pseudonym BurnedOnce?

    • coop202 - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:14 AM

      Ya bryce, why would you try to put yourself in position to score a tying run?? What a ***hole.

      Get over it, it was a bad choice. Remember when span got picked off by the pitcher? Talk about that one

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:18 AM

        Not defending Bryce, but I will defend Span, at least this time. The ump totally missed an obvious balk.

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:21 AM

        If this wasn’t’t a balk, then there is no such thing as a balk:

      • Hiram Hover - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:37 AM

        The original poster was just flaming Bryce, but c’mon, last night was more than “a bad choice”–it was another in a series of bad choices that shows continuing bad judgment and a pretty flat learning curve.

      • Section 222 - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:44 AM

        Agree with HH. It’s almost like Bryce was taunting Peralta. He made too big a turn, and then realized Peralta could throw behind him, so he took off for second. You can take a big turn like that when you hit the ball to left or center, but not right. Not against a major league outfielder who, apparently, has a pretty good arm. Not every single can be stretched into a double.

        At the same time, as bad as the play was, it didn’t cost us the game. Maybe we would have scored that inning, maybe not. No way to know.

    • rayvil01 - Aug 19, 2014 at 11:10 AM

      As Bob Carpenter might say, “That’s some serious trollage.”

      Bryce is a kid. And it looks as if he’s going to have to learn every single baseball lesson the hard way. It’s tough to grow up on camera.

      • RPrecupjr - Aug 19, 2014 at 2:18 PM

        “serious trollage” – nice

  11. rabbit433 - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    This win was probably more deflating to Atlanta than when Atlanta loses a game. Keep it going guys.

  12. tcostant - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    It’s fun to be a fan right now.

    MASN stuff:

    • Eugene in Oregon - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:38 AM

      What a sordid situation — and one that won’t do either team (or MLB) any good in the long run. One can only hope that a federal arbritation panel steps in, awards something resembling a fair share to the Nats, which then leads Peter Angelos to reach an outrageous buy-out deal with the Lerners. Otherwise expect a repeat of this mess ever five years (I think that’s the regular timeframe for a reset of the contract).

      • scbilly - Aug 19, 2014 at 11:08 AM

        Every five years? Given MASN/Angelos’ druthers, the 2012 reset will still be open when the next round is due in 2017. The longer this continues, the longer he gets to keep money that should be headed south on I-95. As with the Orioles themselves, Angelos would rather run MASN badly his way than let someone else run it well. Hobbling his non-rival rivals in DC is just a bonus.

      • Hiram Hover - Aug 19, 2014 at 12:31 PM

        Bud was obviously incapable of preventing this, and now that it’s broken into court, I doubt his ability to resolve it during his last 5 months (not that I’m counting).

        Bud seems to be living in the past, focused on the labor issues that defined MLB in the early 90s when he rose to power. That influenced his choice of Manfred as well, and I don’t have much faith in his ability to handle it better.

        MLB is a business, and labor relations are obviously important, but there’s a lot more to the business that that.

  13. Joe Seamhead - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    Though not great overall in either category, the improvement in both is pretty dramatic:
    Nats are now 18-18 in one run games and 7-8 in extra inning games.

  14. scnatsfan - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Now this is how I expect us to play… winning every game lol

  15. stoatva - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    Don’t look now, but Barves getting up off the canvas.

    One thing I do not hope to see is a five game series between the league best Nats and Barves, wild card winner over the Cardinals. Or the other way.

    • stoatva - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:56 AM

      Of course, if that’s where the road goes, bring em on.

    • adcwonk - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:59 AM

      Don’t look now, but Barves getting up off the canvas.

      Yes, it seems they are.

      But every time we win and they win, they have one less game to attempt to catch up to us.

      The mathematical way of saying that is: when we both win, the magic number still decreases.

      I.e., So, they swept the A’s and beat the Pirates, winning four strait. And in the meantime the Nats’ magic number over that time has decreased from 37 to 33.
      😉 😉 😉

    • scnatsfan - Aug 19, 2014 at 11:14 AM

      And we got up off the canvas last year but it was too late. Wouldn’t that be a shame of our friends from Atlanta were playing their best ball of the year on game 162 but miss the playoffs. Break my heart.

    • rayvil01 - Aug 19, 2014 at 11:15 AM

      Braves are on a heater. That will be followed by another polar vortex cold snap slide. That has been their pattern all year. Keeping distance right now will translate into a big lead later.

      • zmunchkin - Aug 19, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        If the Barves go 24-13 (.650 -pretty unlikely) they have 89 wins. The Nats need to go 20-19 to get to 90.

        So is it possible the Barves catch/pass the Nats. Yes, but not likely.

  16. Candide - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    Quoting MicheleS: WooHoo! Just scored a seat for $10 in 312 for Thursday’s game!

    SJM308, ArVaFan, hope to see y’all there.

    Reminder for everyone else: Let the rest of us know if you’re going and where you can be found by going to the “Who’s Going” page of the NIDO spreadsheet, right here. Easy to fill in – just ask SJM, who’s told us all many times he’s not the most computer-savvy guy in the world – even he can do it!

    • adcwonk - Aug 19, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      FWIW, I, Mrs Wonk, Wonkling, two of her friends, and my son are attending tonight’s game. (Already entered in the NIDO spreadsheet).

      We’ll be in 308, Row D. I’ll be wearing work clothes (white botton down shirt), my wife will be wearing the awesome pink curly-W hat.

    • natsfan1a - Aug 19, 2014 at 11:54 AM

      I’ll be there, but on a different level (mezzaine). Perhaps any interested folks could drop by for a pregame meetup at the picnic tables behind sec. 312 (assuming that there are still tables there). I assume that most of us will be there early. I understand there’s a bobblehead giveaway or some such… 😉

      • natsfan1a - Aug 19, 2014 at 11:57 AM

        (Suggested because I don’t tend section hop for visits once the game starts. I also have a not-so-smart phone, and I don’t check the blog during games.)

      • natsfan1a - Aug 19, 2014 at 11:57 AM

        (Oh, I’ll be there on Thursday, not tonight. Okay, I’m done now.)

      • adcwonk - Aug 19, 2014 at 12:04 PM

        Agreed (even if you won’t be there 😦 )

        We’ll try to stop by the picnic tables behind 312. Look for Mrs Wonk with blondish-brownish hair and a pink Nats hat. (And me with a beard and white button-down shirt).

        Presumably, we’ll be holding our tote-bags. Yeah, that’ll distinguish us!!





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