No place like Atlanta for LaRoche

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Yesterday,
I wrote about how August has been anything but the Dog Days of Summer for
hitters, focusing on Delmon Young as the prime example.

Hours
later, he finished the night hitless in four at-bats.

Go
figure.

Let’s
hope the jinx doesn’t wear off on Adam LaRoche, another hitter who’s working
overtime to put the past few months behind him.

Owners
who were smart enough to lock down LaRoche weeks ago know this all too well.
Granted, late-season surges are nothing new for the 29-year-old. But who knew getting
traded to Atlanta at the July 31 Trade Deadline would result in the National
League version of Justin Morneau?

The
third team of 2009 turned out to be the charm for LaRoche, who owns a
staggering .410 average with seven homers, 15 RBIs, 14 runs scored and a .787
slugging percentage for the Braves entering Saturday after more or less going
through the motions with the Pirates and Red Sox.

Maybe
all he needed was the inspiration of playing a major role on a contending team,
a feeling he hasn’t experienced since, well, playing for the Braves four years
ago.

Maybe
all he needed was a little offensive protection after largely having to fend
for himself in Steeltown.

Or maybe
he would have raked regardless of uniform color, as he always has during the
second half.

Whatever
the cause, one thing is clear: Say what you want when the season is over, but
as things stand, it’s safe to declare the sweet-swinging first baseman the
winner of the Trade Deadline.

The only
downside is the effect it’s had on younger brother, Andy, whose struggles have
only grown worse since Adam’s departure from Pittsburgh.

If only
second-half surges were hereditary.

-Alex Cushing, MLB.com

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