LaRoche Ends Slump, Leads Nationals To 8-7 Win Over White Sox

Adam LaRoche returned to the Washington Nationals lineup Tuesday and hit two home runs in an 8-7 win over the Chicago White Sox. LaRoche missed the last two games with a back problem but returned to end an 0-for-15 drought with consecutive homers late in the game.

Gio Gonzalez got the start for the Nationals after hitting a home run in his first outing of the season but didn’t get the decision on Tuesday. Gonzalez pitched five innings against the White Sox and gave up one run on four hits in the Nationals first interleague game of the year.

Gonzalez struck out seven in the contest, but the Nationals bullpen fell apart in relief and let the White Sox back in the game. Craig Stammen got the win for the Nationals after giving up the tying-run in the top of the sixth when Paul Konerko drove in Alex Rios with a sacrifice fly.

Stammen got out of the inning with no more harm done, and the Nationals Jayson Werth and LaRoche hit homers in the bottom half to regain the lead for good. After Tyler Clippard struggled through the seventh inning, Drew Storen pitched a scoreless eighth, giving way to closer Rafael Soriano.

Soriano had 42 saves in 2012 with the New York Yankees and is now in charge of holding down the ninth inning for the Nationals. The 33-year-old made a few bad pitches Tuesday including a two-run homer to Alex Rios that cut the Nationals lead to one.

Soriano settled down after the home run and got Paul Konerko to fly out to center to end the ball game. Soriano is now three-for-four in save opportunities to start the year after blowing the save Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds.

Jake Peavy got the start for the White Sox and gave up six runs off nine hits in 5.1 innings pitched. Peavy struck out seven in the game but gave up three home runs on the way to his first loss of the year.

One of LaRoche’s two homers was off Peavy in the sixth, and Nationals manager Davey Johnson praised the 33-year-old after the game for finding his swing and recognized his importance at first base.

“I like the way he was swinging,” Johnson said during a press conference after the game. “He’s so valuable on a ball club.”

The Nationals and White Sox meet again Wednesday for game two of the three-game series. Jordan Zimmermann will take the mound for the Nationals while Gavin Floyd gets the start for the White Sox.

Washington is currently a game and a half back of the Atlanta Braves for first in the NL East, as the Braves have won five straight games with the help of the Upton brothers. Will the Washington Nationals make a move in the standings early, or will they watch the Atlanta Braves run away with the NL East?

[Image via Keith Allison]