Adam LaRoche joins Harold Baines with historically-rare achievement

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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.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.