WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 05: Jayson Werth #28 celebrates with Gio Gonzalez #47 and Stephen Lombardozzi #1 of the Washington Nationals after hitting a three run home run in the fifth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on May 5, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Jayson Werth's three-run HR off Philadelphia Phillies' right-hander Vance Worley in the fifth broke this afternoon's game open and got the Washington Nationals' started on the way to a 7-1 win. After the game, MASN's Kristina Akra asked the 32-year-old Nats' outfielder about the two-out, three-run home run, which came on a 1-0 pitch from the Philly right-hander. "I think it was a front door cutter," Werth said, "I put a good swing on it and sent it out of here, but I'm just excited to send most of the people home today happy." The comment was clearly, of course, in reference to the visiting fans from Philadelphia, who'd booed their former outfield at every opportunity this afternoon.
Werth was 0 for 2 before that fifth inning at bat, having K'd looking in the first after the Phillies walked Bryce Harper to put two on in front of him and grounded out in his second at bat in the fourth after going 0 for 5 with a walk Friday night in the first game of the three-game weekend series in which the Nationals were trying to "Take Back the Park" from the Phillies fans who have routinely "invaded" the nation's capital in the last couple of years and often serenaded the Nats' $126M dollar outfielder from the outfield seats above the out-of-town scoreboard in right.
Nats' skipper Davey Johnson was asked after today's game if he thought it was especially important for Jayson Werth to have come through with what ended up being the game-winning hit against his old team. "He probably puts more pressure on himself because he's going up against his old mates," Johnson said, "And I know that feeling. I usually, when I played against old mates, I was more relaxed, but he's got a lot of pride and that was big for him and his team. It was great to see that happen."
The Nationals' manager wasn't willing to say that taking the first two of three from the team that's won the NL East in each of the last five seasons had flipped the script between the two divisional rivals, however, though he did say that things have changed from years past when the Phillies dominated the Nats. "I felt like the ballclub we were bringing to the ballpark last year when we went into Philly [proved] that we can play with them and I think all that we're doing right now is reaffirming that we can play with them. They're shorthanded, we're shorthanded, probably moreso than them, but we can still compete with them and I think that's a good message to send."
Have the Phillies gotten the message? NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman quoted Phillies' outfielder Hunter Pence saying after today's game that, "'It feels like [the Nationals] have a chip on their shoulder.'" Tomorrow night, Washington plays one more game with Philadelphia in front of a national tv audience on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Davey Johnson was asked this afternoon if the spotlight would finally give the baseball world a look at what the Nationals have been able to do thus far this season.
"I don't think it's a big secret," the 69-year-old skipper said, "It's not a big secret among baseball [that] we've got a pretty good ballclub and have a lot of good players. It is going to be fun for everybody around to see a team from Washington that's atop the division playing the division champions. I would have interest in that even if I wasn't even in baseball. So it should be exciting. I don't have to give any motivational speeches tomorrow night, just like I didn't coming into the first game here." Today's win left the Nationals 18-9 so far this season. It was their fourth-straight win and it guaranteed a win in the eighth of nine series the team's played so far in 2012. Tomorrow night they return to the national stage for the first time since the Nationals Park-opening broadcast of the first game of the '08 campaign.
Ryan Zimmerman won that game with a walk-off home run off Braves' reliever Peter Moylan. Zimmerman will likely sit this one out, however, with the shoulder issues which have sidelined him since April 20th. The Nats' 27-year-old third baseman told reporters this afternoon (including the Washington Times' Amanda Comak) that he was "pretty much 100 percent" but would likely remain out until Tuesday and take advantage of the off day on Monday to make sure he's ready to return.
With Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse out of the lineup the Nationals have gotten contributions from some unlikely sources like Chad Tracy, Rick Ankiel and Steve Lombardozzi and they've won four-straight heading into tomorrow night's series finale with Philadelphia. Johnson said he'd likely put the same lineup out there against Cole Hamels that he's gone with in each of the first two games. "I'm probably going to with that same lineup and the heck with it," Johnson said. Whatever works.