Adam LaRoche hit his 20th home run of the season Thursday night, the seventh time in his nine major league seasons that the first baseman has crossed the 20-homer plateau.
He was 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBI in the Nationals' 3-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. It was yet another performance that distanced himself further from a 2011 season that featured uncharacteristically low numbers and a torn labrum that cost him the majority of his first campaign in a Nationals' uniform.
"I put some big hits together today and got it done," LaRoche said, his homer in the second breaking the ice against Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels and helping to stave off a potential sweep.
"It's such a funny game that a lot of times you can't explain it. Some games you just tip your hat and say, 'It wasn't meant to be'. The last two [losses] were like that."
Manager Davey Johnson was pleased with his first baseman's performance, but he's not at all surprised.
"He's been a constant all year long; he's got big hits. [Ryan Zimmerman] was down, [Michael Morse] was down, he's the guy that carried us through it," Johnson said. "He's the glue in the infield, he goes, a lot of times, unnoticed. But not by me. He's outstanding."
Jayson Werth, who made his first start since breaking his left wrist in May, praised LaRoche's presence on the team and hoped to take on some of the load he's been carrying.
"He's been a pillar in the middle of the lineup and had a great season so far," said Werth. "We've been leaning on him a lot. Hopefully now that we're getting healthy, we can take the pressure off him a little bit."
LaRoche, who is batting .270 and has a team-leading 64 RBI, says he has put last season's injury behind him and continues to focus on what's ahead.
"It feels like last year is a distant memory now," he said. "It's nice to be back and for the most part healthy and out there playing. It's easy to take for granted what we do. [It was] a little incentive this offseason to get out here and it's working out."
With a difficult stretch upcoming for the Nationals as they play 20 games in the next 20 days, LaRoche knows it's going to be tough
"After a great road trip and then being flat for a couple games, to get out and win the last game here [was great], and then a big double header [Friday]," he said. "There's a long way to go, but I like the way this team can bounce back."
• LaRoche is only the 10th Nationals player to hit at least 20 home runs in a season since the organization moved to Washington in 2005. He is also the third fastest to 20 home runs (by date). Only Alfonso Soriano (2006) and Adam Dunn (2009 and 2010) reached the mark quicker.
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