WASHINGTON -- First baseman Adam LaRoche has battled through this before. He's dealt with slow starts throughout his career, so even though he wasn't thrilled to be 0-for-15 for the season after his first two at-bats on Tuesday night, he could deal with it.
LaRoche changed things quickly. He blasted a two-run homer in the sixth and added a solo shot in the eighth, both crucial parts of a four-homer effort that helped the Nationals pull out an 8-7 victory over the White Sox at Nationals Park.
LaRoche had missed Washington's previous two games with a strained muscle in his mid-back. Manager Davey Johnson said before the game that LaRoche had gotten everything loosened up and was ready to play. Johnson said afterward that LaRoche's slow start hadn't concerned him too much.
"I wasn't worried about him," Johnson said. "He's hit some balls hard. I liked the way he was swinging the bat. He's a smart hitter."
LaRoche was nervous about his back because it was so tight in Cincinnati over the weekend. The slow start, well, that didn't seem to concern him as much either.
"First series, to look up and see zeros for a batting average is OK," LaRoche said. "You get into the second week of the season, that's never a good feeling to look up there and not have a hit. I felt great that first series at home, I just couldn't get the ball to fall. To come back and get a couple [tonight] was nice."
The Nationals (5-2) had been struggling at the plate throughout the first two series, and were just 10th in the National League going into the game in team average -- batting only .224 before this Interleague series began.
Even so, the team's power stroke remained intact. The Nationals ranked fourth in the NL in homers, with 10, and they've now banged out 14 in seven games, with help from up and down the lineup.
"We have a really balanced lineup," said Jayson Werth. "It's tough on matchups. It's tough on pitchers."
Werth was one of the hitters who made life tough on the five Chicago pitchers, hitting a home run and finishing 2-for-4 with three RBIs and going past the 500-RBI mark for his career. He now has 502 RBIs.
Werth and LaRoche each crushed a two-run homer off Chicago starter Jake Peavy (1-1) in the sixth, giving Washington a four-run lead. Ian Desmond had hit a solo homer earlier.
Chicago (4-3) used some late power to make the game interesting. Paul Konerko belted a three-run homer off Tyler Clippard in the seventh to cut the lead to one run. The Nationals added a run on Werth's RBI single in the seventh and another on LaRoche's solo homer in the eighth.
That gave the Nationals a three-run lead, but the White Sox closed the gap in the ninth against closer Rafael Soriano. Alex Rios hit a two-run homer with two outs before Soriano retired Konerko to lock up his third save.
"They were swinging the bat," Chicago manager Robin Ventura said about the Nationals. "They'd get a lead, and we'd try to catch back up. They're very talented. When you lose, you always look at the fact that you lose. But we kept battling back and getting close."
Chicago did a good job working the count against starter Gio Gonzalez. The hard-throwing lefty gave up just one run on four hits and struck out seven but lasted only five innings after throwing 99 pitches.
The White Sox constantly worked counts deep on Gonzalez -- he needed 33 pitches just to get through the first inning -- but he hung on and made it through five. Craig Stammen (2-0) got the win after pitching the sixth inning.
The bullpen gave up six runs on seven hits in four innings after Gonzalez exited, but LaRoche and the power of the Nationals saved the day.
"You look at this lineup,and the power from eight guys capable of putting up a lot of home runs in a year is huge for us," LaRoche said. "At any time we could be down three or four runs, and we're a swing away from being right back in it. Powerful lineup with powerful pitching, that's a good combination."