The Nationals have to consider this season a success, as they have gone from preseason afterthoughts to World Series contenders. After battling the St. Louis Cardinals for four games in the National League Division Series, Jason Werth sent the series into the deciding Game 5 with a walk-off home run in Game 4.
The Cardinals are a very complete team with good starting pitching, clutch hitters who can kill a team in the postseason and a shut-down bullpen. They also have the all-important X-factor: experience.
Especially in baseball, knowing the environment and having been there before in the postseason is incredibly important.
There isn't one person who can carry the Nationals past the Cardinals tonight in Game 5. They will need contributions from Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Gio Gonzalez and their bullpen, which includes Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard.
However, tonight against Adam Wainwright, I believe the most important person in the Nationals' lineup is No. 4 hitter Adam LaRoche. LaRoche is a power lefty who can abuse right-handed pitching. He is also in a position to drive in runs, hitting right in the heart of the Nationals' order.
LaRoche was merely 1-for-11 before Game 4, where he hit a home run and helped propel the Nationals to another game. In his career against Wainwright, LaRoche is 7-for-25 with nine RBIs. The Nationals will need LaRoche to come through tonight in a big way, as he sometimes flies under the radar with big names such as Werth, Harper and Ryan Zimmerman surrounding him in the Washington lineup on a nightly basis.
The Washington first baseman is very closely tied to their success as all middle-of-the-order hitters are to their respective teams, and it is his time to come through in the postseason if the Nationals want to continue their magical run.
LaRoche played a very underrated role in the Nationals' incredible season, hitting 33 home runs and driving in 100 runs. Through four games of playoff baseball, the Nationals and Cardinals are even, and LaRoche finally showing up after hitting .154 so far could easily push the Nationals over the top.