Scoring six runs makes any game feel pretty good. Having your ace starter go eight innings for the first time in his career and allow one earned run make any game pretty good too, as does having your young phenom hit a home run. I think it’s fair to say today’s game was pretty good. It was pretty heavily contested, with both offenses blowing offensive opportunities, until the fourth inning, when Adam LaRoche‘s home run bumped the Nats’ chance of winning to nearly 75%. From there on out, a lights-out Stephen Strasburg and a heaping helping of offense subdued the Padres and let the Nationals cruise, getting Strasburg his first win since Opening Day.
Most Important Nationals Hit: Adam LaRoche’s two-run home run (+23.3%)
May 16, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche (25) is congratulated by third base coach Trent Jerett (44) following a two-run home run during the fourth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
As LaRoche strode to the plate in the top of the fourth, the Nationals’ offense was struggling just like it had in recent games. Hitters struck out three straight times with a runner on second in the second, and had yet to record a hit despite drawing four walks. With one swing of the bat, he changed that narrative entirely. He deposited an Edinson Volquez pitch in the sandbox in centerfield, driving in Ryan Zimmerman to put the Nats up 2-0. He now has a 13-game hit streak, the longest of his career.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Alexi Amarista‘s ground into double play (+5.2%)
The Padres had a runner on with one out in the top of the second thanks to Strasburg’s hitting Jedd Gyorko with a pitch and were looking to break the scoreless tie. Amarista torpedoed that attempt by grounding into an inning-ending double play. It’s rare for the most important pitch to have been in favor of the Nationals, but the Padres didn’t really threaten any offense until they trailed 5-0, by which time WPA figures the game is pretty much over.
Champ of the Game: LaRoche (+28.7%) was 1-3 with a walk and his two-run homer. Despite his poor start to the season, he is starting to re-inspire #AdaMVP and #AdamBomb with his performance of late, raising his average 88 points since May 1st by hitting .386 since then. For San Diego, Gyorko (+5.8%) was 2-3 with a run scored.
Chump of the Game: Ian Desmond (-7.5%) was 0-4 with a strikeout. He has cooled off a bit of late, going just 2-17 in his last five games, although he has drawn four walks in that span to more than double his season total. Volquez (-25.8%) was not good for the Padres, allowing five runs in five innings while walking four and upping his season ERA to 5.55.