AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Adam LaRoche's tiebreaking RBI single off the first pitch from Fernando Salas capped a four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Washington Nationals came back to beat the Los Angeles Angels 5-4 Wednesday night to avoid a sweep.
Los Angeles led 4-1 entering the ninth, and closer Ernesto Frieri (0-2) went in, seeking his third save.
Instead, he left with his second blown chance, charged with all four runs Washington scored in that inning.
Jose Lobaton led off with his first homer of the season. One out later, Denard Span singled, then Anthony Rendon walked. Frieri then gave up Jayson Werth's two-run double to make it 4-all.
Salas entered, and LaRoche greeted him with a liner to left. Werth easily beat the throw from Mike Trout, crossed the plate with a fist raised and was greeted by teammates streaming out of the home dugout. The Nationals then headed over to swarm LaRoche.
Drew Storen (2-0) got one out in the ninth for the victory.
He won despite giving up a run-scoring single to Trout, who earlier robbed Bryce Harper of a hit with a headfirst diving catch and beat a throw home from his fellow 2012 Rookie of the Year to score.
A night after hitting his 499th and 500th homers, Albert Pujols went 2 for 4 with an RBI double. Erick Aybar singled in a run, and Angels starter Jered Weaver allowed one run and seven hits in six innings.
The Angels dropped to 10-11, blowing an opportunity to climb above .500 for the first time since they were 1-0 last season.
Washington's Gio Gonzalez gave up two runs over five-plus innings. He also drove in Washington's first run.
The Nationals put two men on in the first, but center fielder Trout charged forward for a highlight-reel grab, preventing Harper from getting what probably would have been a run-scoring hit.
Gonzalez retired 11 batters in a row until he walked Trout to lead off the sixth -- and the lefty's night would soon end, too.
Next up was Pujols, who sent a double bouncing down the left-field line. Trout took off and made it all the way from first, beating Harper's throw from left and making it 1-all.
After only 83 pitches, Gonzalez was replaced by rookie reliever Aaron Barrett, who got Howie Kendrick to ground out but then allowed Aybar's RBI single.
The Angels tacked on another run in the seventh when Barrett threw a wild pitch that allowed David Freese to score from third after reaching with his first double of the season.
So much attention at the start of this series was on Trout, 22, and Harper, 21, a pair of first-round draft picks who were Arizona Fall League teammate in 2011 but hadn't played each other in the majors until Monday.
NOTES: Former Nationals pitcher Livan Hernandez was at the ballpark and in uniform Wednesday as part of his duties as "kind of an ambassador-confidant-coach-jack-of-all-trades" for the club, in the words of GM Mike Rizzo. "He'll be doing some public relations events and that type of thing," Rizzo added. "He's fun for me to have around. He's an engaging personality, he's a fun-loving guy, he keeps things loose. But there's a serious side that actually helps the players. If it's not talking to young pitchers about pitching, it's throwing to some of the guys kind of a live batting practice type of thing. He has a role besides just being a nice guy." ... Angels LHP Sean Burnett (elbow) and RHP Dane De La Rosa (shoulder) are scheduled to throw in simulated games Thursday. ... After a day off, the Angels will have LHP C.J. Wilson (2-2, 4.21) on the mound Friday against Yankees RHP Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 4.07) for the start of a three-game series at New York. ... The Nationals begin a four-game set Thursday against visiting San Diego, with RHP Jordan Zimmermann (1-1, 3.92) facing Padres LHP Eric Stults (1-2, 4.35).
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich
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Another Harper lag nearly cost Nats
Yanked from a game last weekend for what manager Matt Williams called "lack of hustle," Harper went from what appeared to be a jog to a sprint when his grounder in the eighth was fumbled by first baseman Pujols, who was charged with an error.With the Nats trailing 3-1, Harper hit a grounder to Pujols and began to trot slowly to the bag. This time, however, Pujols mishandled the ball. Only then did Harper charge toward first. Pujols' throw to pitcher Joe Smith was off-target, and Harper made it to first safely. A good throw could well have gotten him, and people on Twitter immediately grasped the parallels.
When is Bryce gonna learn? His lax running almost cost him again. #nats— Geoff Tuck (@ffg_off) April 24, 2014
Lesson not learned: Harper shuffles halfway to first, belatedly turns on jets when ball is dropped #Nats— Marc Fisher (@mffisher) April 24, 2014
Figures that would happen to Bryce after the benching incident the other day #Nats— Eli Hajjar (@thatguyEli17) April 24, 2014
The Nationals didn't score in the inning.
Harper just doesn't look like the same player this year. No hustle, no drive, not having fun--acts like he doesn't wanna be out there #Nats— John Ladd (@jthorsen83) April 24, 2014