LaRoche's career day sparks Bucs

LaRoche's career day sparks Bucs

PITTSBURGH -- It wasn't his motivation, but Andy LaRoche made sure the Dodgers left town well aware of who they gave up on last year.

Not that the Dodgers, in any way, regret the six-player swap that sent LaRoche to Pittsburgh in July 2008. They, of course, landed outfielder Manny Ramirez in the whole thing. But on Monday, LaRoche put a resounding bowtie on his best series of the season with his best game of the year, and it just so happened that it came in front of his former team.

With a career-high five hits and six RBIs, LaRoche led the way in the Pirates' 11-1 victory and series win over the Dodgers.

"I just try to keep the same approach every day no matter who I'm playing against," LaRoche said, when asked about the irony that this career day would come against the Dodgers. "It just happened to be against the Dodgers. It was great. It was a great way to finish the season for us at home."

It all started with a first-inning single, the only one of LaRoche's five hits after which he wouldn't eventually come around to score. He drove in two with a second-inning double and then used a gusting wind to his advantage in depositing Hiroki Kuroda's first-pitch fastball just over the center-field wall in the fourth. The solo homer was his 11th of the year.

"I know after my first at-bat that I was seeing it really well," LaRoche said. "When we faced Kuroda at their place, I didn't see it all that well. I just think everything came around."

LaRoche had gone 1-for-3 with a single against Kuroda in that Sept. 16 game at Dodger Stadium.

It didn't matter that Kuroda exited after the fourth. LaRoche continued to roll. He came to the plate in the sixth already eyeing the cycle, a feat that no Pirates player has accomplished in five years. LaRoche nearly got it, too.

With his fourth hit of the day, he drove another pitch to deep center. He rounded second and looked intent on trying to get to third, but stopped when he saw third-base coach Tony Beasley throw up his hands. LaRoche grinned as he did, knowing that he probably had missed the only shot he was going to have.

"I wanted to [try]," LaRoche later admitted. "I was thinking about running through it, but I couldn't do that. It was OK. I ended up scoring, so it worked out well."

LaRoche then capped off his day with a two-run homer high off the left-field foul pole in the eighth. With it, he became the second Pirates player this season to record five hits in a game. Former second baseman Freddy Sanchez went 6-for-6 in a win over the Cubs on May 25.

"It was outstanding," manager John Russell said of LaRoche's game. "The guys on the bench were really excited for him. He did a great job."

Monday's output helped LaRoche pad his already impressive series numbers. He finished the four-game series 10-for-18 with seven runs scored, four doubles, three home runs and nine RBIs.

"He did a lot of damage this series, no question," Dodgers manager Joe Torre conceded.

This four-day production, though, is just part of a longer resurgence that LaRoche has been having. With Monday's five hits, he has hit .368 in his past 14 starts. In that span, he has gone deep five times, driven in 13 and hit safely in each.

To put that in some perspective, too, those five home runs are more than LaRoche had in the entire first half of the season.

"It's good to finally be able to feel like I'm getting my stroke back and haven't lost it completely," he said. "I've been feeling good as of late and feel like I'm starting to come around and feel like I did coming up through the Minors."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.