After he threw Chicago first baseman Carlos Pena out at home to end the top of the sixth, Washington Nationals' right fielder Jayson Werth, who was 1 for 2 with an RBI single, a walk and an RBI groundout through six innings on the 4th of July, stepped to the plate with the game tied, two down and the bases loaded in the seventh inning at Nationals Park. Cubs' right-hander Kerry Wood had walked Laynce Nix to force in the tying run in the previous at bat. Werth?
Jayson Werth went down swinging, leaving the bases loaded in a 4-4 game. The strikeout was Werth's 19th in 11 games, and 82nd on the year. He definitely heard boos. Again. It had started happening only recently. Wood had worked him over, missing with a slider before throwing a 1-0 fastball that Werth fouled off, a changeup that the Nats' slugger took for a strike and a 1-2 curve that completely fooled the 32-year-old, 9-year MLB veteran. The Nationals went on to win the game in the 10th, mostly due to mistakes by the Cubs' pitchers, but also because Werth never stopped hustling.
The Nats' $126M dollar outfielder walked to start the home half of the 10th when Cubs' right-hander Marcos Mateo missed with a full-count slider. A perfect sac bunt by pinch hitter Livan Hernandez moved Werth into scoring position and when Chicago closer Carlos Marmol seemingly forgot there was a runner on second, the Nats' right-fielder stole third setting himself up to score the winning run on the wild pitch that followed. Werth sprinted home with Pudge Rodriguez waiving him in, slid in safe and jumped into a celebration just outside the Nats' dugout. 5-4 Nationals on a walk-off wild pitch. Werth, with the help of the Cubs' relievers, manufactured the winning run. The crowd went wild.
Werth ended the game with a .224/.330/.382 slash line, 16 doubles and 10 HR's, he'd scored the game's winning run, but he hadn't (and still hasn't) connected on an extra base hit since he doubled in Anaheim a week ago, hadn't hit a home run since June 16th against St. Louis, and he was coming off a month of June in which he'd gone 14 for 91 (.154/.291/.286) after a month of May in which his .287/.364/.455 slash made it seem like things were turning around for the Nats' big offseason investment. His comment to reporters after the game about the fan's alternately booing and cheering could have been taken the wrong way.
As NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman reported after the game, in an article entitled, "It was time to make something happen", Werth said he was unaffected by the fan reaction:
"'Cheer me, boo me, whatever,' he said. 'I'm still going to go out there and play my game. Winning ballgames is the most important thing.'"
Helping the Nats win ballgames is just what he'd done earlier in the day, contributing defensively, and producing the winning run in spite of the fact that he'd continued to struggle at the plate. Werth told SI.com's Jerry Crasnick yesterday, in an article entitled, "Jayson Werth happy with Nats", that in spite of, "some speculation in baseball circles", he was not regretting the decision to leave Philadelphia for the nation's capital:
"'I definitely want to (dispel) the idea that I'm not happy,' Werth told ESPN.com. 'Other than my offensive production -- which I'm OK with because I know it's going to turn around -- I'm happy with my decision.'"
"'I see the future of this organization and where it's going,'" Werth said to Mr. Crasnick as he has since he signed on with Washington this winter, "'and I'm really satisfied and I really like it here.'" Werth's 0 for 8 with 3 K's in two games since he scored the winning run on the fourth of July, but the Nats have won both games including last night's which saw Danny Espinosa and Ryan Zimmerman provide the power with two-run HR's by each of them before a suicide squeeze pulled off by Wilson Ramos (at the plate) and Michael Morse (charging from third) gave the Nationals yet another one-run win. It's not hard to see what Werth sees in his Nationals' teammates.
"He's a feared hitter, he's a feared player," Danny Espinosa told ESPN 980's Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro in an interview on The Sports Fix this afternoon, "but there's more that he brings than just his bat. I mean, he won the game almost by himself the other night, because he was on second base, and he stole third, and that allowed the wild pitch and he scored. So there's a lot more that Jayson does than just hit."
Last night, in spite of the fact that he went 0 for 4 with another K, lowering his season slash to .218/.322/.372, and in spite of the fact that he misplayed a fly ball in right field, which once again drew some boos from the crowd, Werth contributed to the win, flying out to right in the seventh after a leadoff double by Michael Morse. Werth got it deep enough that Morse could tag and take third, setting up the dramatic blown squeeze that preceded the successful one which ended up being the game-winner. After Werth's productive fly to right, he got an ovation from some in attendance that was not unlike what Adam Dunn heard from the US Cellular Field crowd earlier this week when he connected on his second hit in 70 plate appearances this year against left-handed pitchers. Was this NatsTown's way of reaching out and letting Werth know they're behind him in spite of the booing?
For a player who's "signature moment" thus far could arguably have been a walk-off wild pitch, a Dunn-like moment on a fly ball deep enough to advance a runner seems about right. For a player who just last year clinched the NL East, uncorked champagne and doused his Philadelphia Phillies' teammates in Nationals Park's visitor's locker room, it's understandable given his struggles that it might take a while for all of NatsTown to come around. But it's getting there. There are six and half years left to work on the relationship.