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LaRoche leads Nationals past Giants

The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON -- When he's on, Adam LaRoche has one of the sweetest swings in baseball. And after suffering through another prolonged slump, it looks like the Washington Nationals' slugger is finding his stroke again.

LaRoche uncorked a titanic home run in the sixth inning to break a tie and propel the Washington Nationals to a 4-2 victory Tuesday over the San Francisco Giants in a contest featuring two teams who have struggled to score runs all season.

A big reason Washington's offense hasn't clicked this year is because the streaky LaRoche has been cold at the wrong times. But after a miserable 25-game slide in which he hit just .191, the first baseman is warming up for the stretch run as the Nationals have won four straight.

"I can't remember the last time we put four wins together," said LaRoche, forgetting Washington's four-game streak July 4-7. "Obviously, it's been a while, and again you just build off it. It'd be nice if we could rewind and go back to April and start this thing over again, but that's baseball."

After Ian Desmond led off the sixth inning of a 1-1 game with a single off reliever Guillermo Moscoso (1-1), LaRoche unleashed a picture-perfect cut on a 1-0 fastball, launching the ball off the railing above the Nationals' bullpen in right field for his 17th home run.

"It was a fastball, right there," LaRoche said. "I'm assuming he's going after me and he left one out over the plate. I hit it pretty good."

Over his last nine games, LaRoche is hitting .323 with three homers and seven RBIs, production the offensively strapped Nationals are going to need if they plan on making a postseason push.

The Nationals are 52-14 when scoring at least three runs, while the Giants scored less than three runs for the 18th time in 24 games since the All-Star break.

"It's the same thing we've been talking about," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "We get our hits, we get them out there, but we just can't get them in. Again, it came back to get us."

The Giants were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 men, wasting a 4-for-5 effort from fill-in second baseman Joaquin Arias.

Hunter Pence had an RBI single in the seventh to draw San Francisco to 3-2, but Kurt Suzuki added an insurance run with a sacrifice fly and five Washington relievers kept the Giants from drawing even. Tanner Roark (2-0) earned the victory, while Rafael Soriano registered his 30th save.

A 77-minute rain delay knocked out starters Madison Bumgarner and Gio Gonzalez, who were both pitching well before the storm.

"I said I'll go back out there," Bumgarner recalled after his four-inning, five-hit effort. "I feel fine, but I've never had to try and do that, so I don't know how I would have felt. I felt fine, but they felt it was the best thing, I guess."

Both teams have labored to score runs all season, and with two strong pitchers on the mound, that problem was exacerbated in the early innings.

The Giants had runners on the corners in the first, thanks to Jayson Werth lackadaisically playing a hit by Arias into a double and Gonzalez failing to cover first on a potential double-play ball. But Pence grounded out to second to end the threat.

In between innings, TV cameras caught Werth and Gonzalez arguing animatedly in the dugout.

"It stays between me and Werth," said Gonzalez, while Werth declined to speak to reporters.

The Nationals had a great opportunity to break through in the third, but Werth struck out with the bases loaded. In the fourth, the Nationals got on the scoreboard but missed out on a big inning. Desmond doubled and LaRoche singled to open the frame, but Washington was only able to plate one run, on a groundout by Wilson Ramos.

The Giants tied the score at 1-1 in the fifth when Desmond misplayed what should have been an inning-ending chopper by Buster Posey, allowing Arias to score.

NOTES: Nationals OF Bryce Harper did not start due to a case of the flu, although he still impressed with tape-measure home runs during batting practice. Harper entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth and was intentionally walked... Giants 1B Brandon Belt earned NL Player of the Week honors after going .440 with two homers, five RBIs and eight runs last week. "I'm just shooting to play the best I can the rest of the season," he said. ... Both Washington and San Francisco have struggled to live up to preseason predictions that had both teams in the playoffs. "I'm surprised, but every year is a different year," Bochy said. ... 2B Marco Scutaro was a late scratch from the starting lineup with a stiff back and was replaced by Arias. ... Desmond's fourth-inning double was his 50th extra-base hit of the season, leading all MLB shortstops. ... Ramos reinjured his left hamstring for the third time this season, causing him to leave the game after the rain delay. Johnson said he was "day to day" but unlikely to play Wednesday.

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