MILWAUKEE -- Apparently a sore back can do the body good.
After sitting out a week due to back spasms, Andy LaRoche has returned to the Pirates' lineup on a tear. In the four games since his return heading into Wednesday's series finale, LaRoche has 12 hits in his past 18 at-bats to push his season average up to .400.
The third baseman went 4-for-5 on Tuesday to give him his second four-hit game in just three days. LaRoche has hit .531 in his past nine games.
LaRoche began the season hitting seventh in the batting order, one spot ahead of the pitcher. While LaRoche fared OK in that role, he seems to be benefiting from hitting higher in the order in recent days. Batting in front of the heart of the order, rather than the pitcher, is guaranteed to get LaRoche more hittable pitches. And lately, he hasn't been missing.
Manager John Russell penciled LaRoche into the lineup's second spot on Wednesday for the third consecutive game. If LaRoche continues to get on base with such consistency, he could become a fixture at the top of the order.
The only thing that hasn't been falling for LaRoche this season are the extra-base knocks. Of LaRoche's 18 hits, 16 have been singles. But the third baseman did smack a two-run homer in the top of the first inning against Brewers starter Chris Narveson on Wednesday.