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LaRoche hitting leadoff

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Andy LaRoche will bat the leadoff tonight for the first time in his pro career. “The last time I hit leadoff was in high school,” LaRoche said. “I was about 16 years old.”

Manager John Russell was secretive about why he put LaRoche first. “He works the count,” Russell said. “There are other reasons, which I won’t divulge because I don’t want (the Braves) to know them.”

This season, LaRoche is averaging 3.72 pitches per plate appearance, slightly less than his career average (3.80).

LaRoche said being atop the batting order would cause him to change his approach. “I usually try to work the count, anyway,” he said. “The only at-bat that’s any different is the first one of the game.”

LaRoche laughed when I suggested his, ahem, blazing speed is the reason he’s in the 1 spot.

“I figured that’s obviously what it’s got to be,” LaRoche joked. “I’ll have a 10-pitch at-bat, draw a walk, steal second and steal third. I might even steal home. We’ll see. Depends on how tight they’re holding me at third base.”

– Second baseman Aki Iwamura stepped up his pregame workout, testing his sore hamstring by adding more lateral movement — moving to his right, pushing off, pivoting at second base. Russell said there’s a good chance Iwamura, who hasn’t started a game in a week, could be back in the lineup either Saturday or Sunday.

– Nate McLouth tonight will play in his first game at PNC Park while wearing a Braves uniform. I chatted with Nate before the game — check out the video on this website.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Braves (21-20) – 1. Martin Prado 2b, 2. Jason Heyward rf, 3. Chipper Jones 3b, 4. Brian McCann c, 5. Troy Glaus 1b, 6. Eric Hinske lf, 7. Yunel Escobar ss, 8. Nate McLouth cf, 9. Tim Hudson (4-1, 2.41) rhp

Pirates (18-23) – 1. Andy LaRoche 3b, 2. Bobby Crosby 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Ryan Church lf, 6. Ryan Doumit c, 7. Jeff Clement 1b, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Ross Ohlendorf (0-1, 3.00) rhp

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