Twenty-three games into the first year of his seven-year/$126 million dollar deal, Nats' right fielder Jayson Werth's started turning it around at the plate, having hit in seven of his last 25 plate appearances with three doubles and two HR's over that stretch, leaving the 31-year-old former Baltimore Orioles' 1st Round pick with a .213/.310/.444 slash line, seven doubles, four HR's, 10 walks and 20 K's in his first 100 plate appearances with the Washington Nationals.
In an appearance on Ripken Baseball on Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio this afternoon, Werth was asked about the Giants' pitchers he'll face this week and which one he has the toughest time against, and his answer might inspire the San Francisco starter he'll face tonight:
Jayson Werth: "On [the Giants'] staff, probably [Jonathan] Sanchez for me, out of those guys in question, I would rather not face Sanchez, just because I haven't had any success off him. That doesn't mean I'm not gonna get him when we face him [Saturday] but on their staff that's the guy that gives me the most trouble."
Werth's 0 for 15 with an RBI, two walks and eight K's in 18 plate appearances against the Giants' lefty in his career, 4 for 17 with two HR's against tonight's starter Tim Lincecum. Neither pitcher is going to provide an easy day at Nats Park for the Nationals this weekend, and Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner follow Sunday and Monday, so the offensively-challenged Nats are going to need their starters to keep up with the Giants' World-Series-winning staff this weekend. Asked by the Ripken brothers about the Nats' starters allowing the Nationals to remain competitive while the offense has struggled, Werth said that though the team's offense hasn't yet hit its stride, the pitchers have impressed:
Jayson Werth: "It's been frustrating. We've been close, we've had our opportunities, we just haven't been able to get the hit to break out, so to speak. But the pitching's been good. [Livan Herandez] again threw deep into the game [last night] and our bullpen's nasty although we lost a heartbreaker the other night to the Mets. Other than that they've been solid and those guys we have at the back of our pen are nasty so...I think the pitching's going to hold, and the hitting's going to come around. It's just a matter of time. We're going to break out, and as you know, hitting is contagious and I think we're one big hit away from going on a run."
Werth's spot in the batting order was the last topic discussed, and Werth admitted that the idea at the start of the season was to give the Nats' young infielders, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa time to adjust before they were asked to hit at the top of the order:
Jayson Werth: "I think in respect to what we were trying to do as a club, we've got two young kids up the middle that are probably top-of-the-order guys. [Danny] Espinosa, at the time, [it's his] his first full-year in the big leagues, I think it was more to protect him a little bit at the start of the season, to not just throw him into the fire right away, although he's proven himself that he can do it lately, he's been leading off, we switched he and [Ian] Desmond around and Espinosa's proven that he can hit up there, so I think I'll probably move down in the order as the season goes on. Again, I think that we were just doing that just to make sure that we didn't get anybody into any situation that we didn't want them in. With the personnel and just for the team's sake, I think that was the best thing to do at the time.
"Now, as the season goes on, I think those guys are going to be just fine hitting up one-two, and when [Ryan Zimmerman] comes back he'll probably be hitting three, and I can hit maybe four or five, depending on what Jim Riggleman wants to do, but to start the season off, I know there was some controversy, but I think that was the best move for our club at the time."
Werth's a combined 14 for 61 (.230/.324/.459) against the Giants' pitchers he'll face in this weekend's four-game set with San Francisco. It might be a tough series to get the offense going, and it will be a tough test for the Nats' starters. It doesn't get any easier after this homestand, however, as the Nats go on a nine-game road trip against their NL East opponents in Philly, Florida and Atlanta. No one said it was going to be easy to start competing in the NL East, but Werth knew what he was getting into when he signed in D.C. It's his job to start to help turning things around for the Nats.