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10/02/2012 11:45 PM EDT
LaRoche gets 100th RBI with 33rd HR in Nats' win
WASHINGTON 4, PHILADELPHIA 2

By HOWAD FENDRICH
AP Sports Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A smile crept across Adam LaRoche's face when
he rounded the bases after his career-best 33rd homer gave him
an even 100 RBIs.



After a high-five from manager Davey Johnson and a hug from
Jayson Werth, LaRoche acknowledged the crowd's ovation with a
tip of his red batting helmet during Washington's 4-2 victory
over the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night, 24 hours after
the Nationals clinched the NL East title.



"Feels good," LaRoche said, "to have a little celebration two
nights in a row."



This one was more muted, of course, than all the
alcohol-spraying and mirth-making of Monday. Asked how he'll
mark his individual achievement, LaRoche replied: "I don't know.
I'm still recovering from last night. I'll have to take it easy
tonight."



As he spoke, the televisions in the Nationals Park home
clubhouse were tuned to the game between the Yankees and Red Sox
- not Cincinnati's 3-1 victory over the Cardinals, which was
relevant to Washington's postseason plans. The Nationals and
Reds are tied for the best record in the majors (97-64) heading
into Wednesday's regular-season finales, with the top seed in
the NL playoffs on the line, something the Nationals insist they
aren't all that worried about.



Washington can clinch home-field advantage throughout the
postseason with a victory in Game 162 or a loss by the Reds.



"I don't know how it's that important," Johnson said. "You've
got to beat the teams you play."



On an evening when a thick fog was hanging over the stadium,
Johnson decided most of his main guys deserved a rest. Indeed,
LaRoche was Washington's only everyday player who stayed in for
more than five innings - and he led off the sixth by driving the
second pitch thrown by reliever Josh Lindblom (3-5) into the
home bullpen in right field. Several Nationals relievers raised
their fists as the ball cleared the wall.



Last season was rough as could be for LaRoche. Trying to play
despite a torn labrum in his left shoulder, he hit .172 with
three homers in 43 games, then finally agreed to have surgery.



What a turnaround: In 2012, LaRoche tied his career-best RBI
total and joined Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn - who each did it
twice - as the only Nationals players to reach 100 in that
category. He heard some "MVP!" chants from fans in the seventh
inning.



"It's unfortunate he got hurt last year, for really the first
time in his career. But he's a terrific player and a terrific
teammate, and I'm so happy for him," general manager Mike Rizzo
said. "Now we're looking for him to get hot and carry us like he
did quite often in the first half."



Zach Duke (1-0) threw a scoreless sixth to get his first major
league win since Aug. 14, 2011, for Arizona. Drew Storen earned
his fourth save in five chances.



Phillies rookie Darin Ruf hit a pair of solo homers - off Tom
Gorzelanny in the fourth inning, and Tyler Clippard in the
eighth. All three of Ruf's homers in the majors have come
against Washington.



Ruf led all minor leaguers with 38 home runs this year, earning
the nickname "Babe."



"I was just trying to put myself in a spot where I can compete
next year in spring training for, if not for a starting job,
just a spot on the team," said Ruf, who has driven in all seven
of Philadelphia's runs over its past three games against
Washington.



Johnson used Gorzelanny to begin the game instead of originally
scheduled starter Gio Gonzalez, preferring to let the
left-hander who is 21-8 with a 2.89 ERA stay fresh for a start
in Game 1 of the division series.



LaRoche and center fielder Bryce Harper were the only regulars
in Johnson's starting lineup. He opted to sit third baseman
Zimmerman, right fielder Werth, left fielder Michael Morse,
shortstop Ian Desmond, second baseman Danny Espinosa and catcher
Kurt Suzuki.



Instead, the lineup included players such as Mark DeRosa, making
his first start at shortstop since 2006 for Texas.



"How about that Goon Squad?" a grinning Johnson said, referring
to the nickname Washington's bench players have been given.
"Told you they were tough."



NOTES: DeRosa was charged with a fielding error in the third.
... Harper, the NL rookie of the month for September, went 1 for
3 with a single and a stolen base, his 18th, in the fifth
inning. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel came out to argue that
Harper advanced on a ball fouled off by the batter. ... The
third-place Phillies are 81-80. ... Johnson said RHP Jordan
Zimmermann will start Game 2 in the playoffs. RHP Edwin Jackson
(9-11), pitching the regular-season finale against Philadelphia
on Wednesday, or LHP Ross Detwiler (10-8) will take Game 3,
depending on the opponent. ... LHP Cliff Lee (6-8) starts for
the Phillies on Wednesday. ... LaRoche hit 32 homers for Atlanta
in 2006, and drove in 100 runs for Arizona in 2010.

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