When Adam LaRoche stepped to the plate in the ninth inning against Kenley Jansen, pinch-hitting for Tyler Moore, he could have quoted Dante from the movie Clerks, saying, “I’m not even supposed to be here today!” The Nationals’ first baseman has been bothered lately by a back injury and was out of Wednesday’s starting lineup.
The ninth inning was the start of an historic day for LaRoche. With Bryce Harper on first base after a lead-off single, LaRoche belted a Kenley Jansen offering over the fence in left field for a game-tying two-run home run. The Nats tacked on one more run later in the inning to take a 4-3 lead, but the Dodgers tied it in the bottom half to send the game into extra innings.
In the 12th inning, with the bases loaded and one out, LaRoche ripped a single to left field to plate two more runs, giving him four RBI in two at-bats. It seemed the Nationals were on their way to a 5-3 win. However, with two outs in the bottom of the 12th, Carl Crawford hit a game-tying two-run home run and the game went on.
LaRoche took his third at-bat in the 14th inning with runners on the corners and one out. The 34-year-old hit into what appeared to be an inning-ending double play, but hustled down the line and beat out Dee Gordon’s throw to first base and the Nationals took a 6-5 lead. LaRoche had driven in his fifth run. Asdrubal Cabrera then homered and the Nats hung on to win 8-5 in 14 innings.
How often has a player entered the game in the ninth inning or later and accrued five RBI? Just one other time in baseball history. Harold Baines accomplished the feat for the Orioles in 1999 against the White Sox.
1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Indians early last month. The 34-year-old had spent the last seven and a half seasons with the Blue Jays, but his future elsewhere appeared to be written on the wall when the Jays signed Kendrys Morales in November to essentially occupy Encarnacion’s role.
Encarnacion spoke about testing free agency for the first time in his career and the situation that led to him leaving Toronto for Cleveland. Via Jorge L. Ortiz of USA TODAY:
“Toronto was always my first option, but I had never been a free agent, and anybody who gets to free agency wants to find out what’s out there,’’ he said. “I think they got too hasty in making their decision, but now I’m with Cleveland and I’m happy to be here.’’
Encarnacion last season hit .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs and an AL-best 127 RBI. He’s now on the team that defeated his Blue Jays in the ALCS to advance to the World Series. Encarnacion effectively replaces Mike Napoli, who returned to the Rangers.
I’m on record saying that Sammy Sosa has been rather hosed by baseball history.
The guy did amazing things. Unheard-of things. He was truly astounding at this peak and was incredibly important to both his franchise and Major League Baseball as a whole. His repayment: he’s a pariah. His club won’t claim him and his greatness, by any measure, has not just been overlooked but denied by most who even bother to consider him.
Yes, he had PED associations, but they were extraordinarily vague ones. He’s in the same boat as David Ortiz as far as documented PED evidence against him, but Ortiz will be a first ballot Hall of Famer while Sosa barely clings to the ballot. He hit homers at the same cartoonish rate as Mark McGwire, but while Big Mac has been embraced by baseball and has coached for years, Sosa can’t get into Wrigley Field unless he buys a ticket and even then the Cubs might try to hustle him out of sight. The man has been treated poorly by any measure.
Yet, it’s still possible to overstate the case. Like Sosa did in this interview with Chuck Wasserstrom:
It’s like Jesus Christ when he came to Jerusalem,” Sosa told chuckbloggerstrom.com. “Everybody thought Jesus Christ was a witch (laughing) — and he was our savior. So if they talk (bleep) about Jesus Christ, what about me? Are you kidding me?”
At least he was basically joking about it. Still, it’s a totally unfair and almost offensive comparison.
I mean, anyone who watched Sosa’s career knows that he had trouble laying off breaking stuff low and away. In contrast . . .