It started on one of the many flights the Nationals take crossing the country to play their chosen sport. What if, after a walk-off home run, each player on the team had their own specific celebration? It’s the perfect topic for 25 ballplayers with hours to kill. No word on what each player settled upon, but we do know the one pitcher Gio Gonzalez came up with for Adam LaRoche: Everybody on the field was going to run around like deer and the avid hunter who grew up in rural Kansas was going to pretend to shoot them down. Seriously.
But after LaRoche’s ground ball to second base in the bottom of the ninth inning turned into a failed double-play attempt and after teammate Bryce Harper crossed home plate with the winning run in a 6-5 victory over San Francisco, things didn’t quite go as planned.
“I was drawing back with my bow, shot one of them and then I got mobbed,” LaRoche said with mock outrage. “They kind of robbed me.”
Maybe next time. It capped an eventful evening for LaRoche. Earlier in the game he dropped a bunt over towards the vacant space on the left side of the diamond. The Giants had been playing a shift on the notorious pull hitter and the chance was too good to pass up. Pitcher Matt Cain stared daggers as he watched a batter with a team-high 15 homers saunter to first with the ball 50 feet from any fielder.
“I normally don’t [bunt]. But [third baseman Pablo Sandoval] was just way over there [towards second base] and when they start getting that far over it’s almost selfish not to lay one down,” LaRoche said. “They’re giving me that much of that side of the field. It was a good time down a couple runs I figured I’d get something started.
Ian Desmond actually followed with a walk to push LaRoche into scoring position, but then Danny Espinosa struck out to end the fourth inning. The Nats, down 3-1 at the time, would have to wait until the seventh inning to begin their comeback from a 5-1 deficit. LaRoche isn’t the fastest guy in the world and his teammates let him know it afterwards. Their reaction as his ninth-inning grounder made its way towards second – and a likely double play?
“I was thinking mess it up, mess it up, mess it up,” Desmond said. “We put pressure on them from the seventh inning on, the crowd was in it. I think that was just destined to happen.”
“Speed kills, right? It was great moment definitely,” Harper said. “Any time you can beat out a ground ball and win a ballgame I think you’ll take that any day of the week.”
“Hopefully Adam’s fast enough – actually I know he’s not fast enough,” Ryan Zimmerman thought. “Hopefully they mess it up is the best thing. But those are the things that have happened to us this year. We’ve got some opportunities and we’ve caught some breaks. More importantly we’ve taken advantage of those breaks and good teams do that.”
It worked out and the Nats swept San Francisco right out of town. With three games left before the All-Star break, they can see some rest in sight. I think we know where LaRoche will be spending some of his off time.
“Have you ever seen a guy from Kansas who cares more about hunting than he does about baseball,” Desmond joked.
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