Nationals win on LaRoche homer in 11th
WASHINGTON — It took Adam LaRoche 5,048 at-bats to do something for the first time in his career Monday night. The Washington Nationals probably felt it was worth the wait.
LaRoche hit the first walk-off homer of his career, a solo shot that came with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning, giving the Washington Nationals their seventh consecutive victory, a 5-4 decision over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the opener of a four-game series.
In addition to a seventh straight victory, the Nationals (70-53) scored a third consecutive walk-off win. Washington kept its six-game lead over Atlanta in the National League East as the Braves also won Monday.
LaRoche admitted afterward that he had wondered whether he would ever get a walk-off. After all, the first baseman now is in his 11th season. But Arizona right-hander Will Harris (0-3), called up earlier in the day, surprised LaRoche with a 3-1 curveball that the veteran crushed.
“I got every bit of that one,” LaRoche said with a smile. “Nice to get my first [walk-off]. Took me long enough. It was a good feeling.”
LaRoche and the Nationals almost didn’t get that feeling because in the top of the 11th, the D-backs (53-72) loaded the bases with no outs before right-hander Craig Stammen (3-4) struck out third baseman Jake Lamb and shortstop Didi Gregorius and then got pinch hitter Cliff Pennington on a grounder to second.
“I just made good pitches, and they didn’t hit them,” Stammen said. “I got lucky. Obviously, the cards were stacked against me, and there was only a certain way I was going to get out of it, and . . . that’s the way it went.”
Gregorius made some nice plays on defense and hit a two-run homer earlier but was frustrated at his strikeout in the 11th.
“We had bases loaded,” Gregorius said. “We missed our opportunity... me striking out instead of putting the ball in play. It wasn’t fun.”
The Nationals have had the fun during the walk-off part of their winning streak. They rallied from a three-run deficit to beat Pittsburgh 4-3 on Saturday.
On Sunday, the Pirates scored three in the ninth for a 5-4 lead before the Nationals forced extra innings and won it 6-5 in the 11th.
“It’s part of the game; it just happens sometimes,” Washington manager Matt Williams said. “You never want it by any means, but if you are given the situation you have one choice, you can give up or you can fight, and these guys fight so that’s great.”
The Diamondbacks forced extra innings on Monday when Nationals right-hander Tyler Clippard couldn’t protect a 4-3 lead in the ninth. Closer Rafael Soriano has been used a lot lately, so Williams wanted Clippard to try for his second save. It didn’t happen because right fielder David Peralta led off with a homer to right, tying the score at 4-4.
The offenses were quiet for the first six innings until Washington catcher Wilson Ramos (2-for-4) hit a two-run homer off Arizona starter Vidal Nuno in the seventh for a 2-1 lead.
Gregorius then lined a two-run homer to right field in the top of the eighth. That ended Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann’s night and gave Arizona a 3-2 lead.
The Nationals scored twice in the eighth against right-hander Brad Ziegler. Third baseman Anthony Rendon tied it with an RBI triple, and right fielder Jayson Werth put the Nationals up 4-3 with a sacrifice fly.
Neither team did much in the early going. The Nationals stopped two potential Arizona rallies by turning double plays to end the first and third innings — the latter coming when Nuno tried to sacrifice, and Washington turned it into a 5-6-4 twin killing.
The D-backs finally broke through in the top of the fifth. Left fielder Mark Trumbo (walk) and catcher Miguel Montero (single) reached to put runners on first and second with no outs.
They both moved up on first baseman Jordan Pacheco’s sacrifice, and Trumbo scored on Lamb’s sacrifice fly to deep center for the game’s first run.
Zimmermann pitched seven innings of three-run ball, while Nuno allowed two runs in seven innings.
Montero finished 3-for-4, and Gregorius contributed two hits for Arizona, which suffered another frustrating loss.
“It was a good game,” Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. “We just didn’t come out on top.”
NOTES: RF Jayson Werth returned to the Washington starting lineup for the first time since Aug. 7. He was sidelined, except for brief appearances in three games, by a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder. Werth walked and doubled after coming in late during Sunday’s 6-5 victory over the Pirates. ...The Nationals signed OF Nate Schierholtz to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Syracuse. Schierholtz has played 776 games in the major leagues with the Cubs, Phillies and Giants and is a good pinch hitter (.289 average in 166 career at-bats there). ... The Diamondbacks brought up RHP Will Harris from Triple-A Reno before the game. He was 0-2 with a 9.24 ERA in 12 games with Arizona earlier this season. To make room for Harris, the D-backs optioned RHP Bradin Hagens back to Triple-A Reno. Hagens pitched in his first two major league games recently and had an 0-1 record with a 3.38 ERA