Matt Willliams on Nationals' right fielder Jayson Werth: "He can lead this club."

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals' right fielder Jayson Werth worked his way out of a month-long slump and went into the All-Star Break swinging one of the hottest bats in the majors. Can the 35-year-old outfielder keep crushing the ball and lead the Nats in the second half?

Jayson Werth's rough .212/.297/.293 line in the month of June dropped him from .291/.373/.408 overall on the year to a .266/.349/.370 line.

Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams told reporters after Werth went 2 for 3 with two doubles and two walks in a July 1st game against the Colorado Rockies, that the Nats' 35-year-old outfielder was putting in a lot of work in the cage and watching video as he attempted to turn things around at the plate.

"He stood up a little bit tonight, a little bit taller at the plate... so he said he saw the ball a little better..." -Matt Williams on Jayson Werth's slump-busting adjustments at the plate

"He's been working hard in the cage with Rick [Schu]," the major league slugger-turned-manager said.

"He stood up a little bit tonight," Williams explained. "A little bit taller at the plate. They worked on that early today. And so he said he saw the ball a little better tonight. Which is good."

Williams was asked what exactly he meant when he said Werth "stood up" at the plate?

"He's a big guy," the Nationals' first-year skipper explained.

"If he gets too crouched he tends to get long with his stride. So he just made a minor adjustment, he stood a little taller the plate. It gets him on top of the baseball a little bit more. He was comfortable with that tonight."

The next night, Werth broke a streak of sixty-eight at bats without a home run, taking Rockies' starter Tyler Matzek deep in a 4-3 win over Colorado.

In his third game in the month of July, Werth doubled and homered in 7-2 loss to the Cubs. Williams liked what he saw.

"Just staying on top of the ball a little bit more," he said.

"That just means he's on top of the ball, so the adjustment of standing up a little bit, taking a little bit of a different angle to the baseball has helped." -Matt Williams on Jayson Werth at the plate in July

"Saw it on the homer to his pull side. [Pedro] Strop threw him a good fastball up and away and he was able to line it to right. That just means he's on top of the ball, so the adjustment of standing up a little bit, taking a little bit of a different angle to the baseball has helped."

Though he wasn't discussing Werth's case alone, Williams did talk to reporters during the last homestand about all of the mechanical and mental factors that lead to prolonged slumps.

"I think physically and mentally you're affected throughout the season," he said. "You can get tired. You can have some kind of injury. You're mentally fatigued sometimes, especially when you're struggling to try to find it. All of those things contribute to slumps. The guys that make the adjustments quickly are the guys that get out of it quickly and tend to have higher averages.

"He's got experience. He's been in this situation before... He knows what he's doing and he can lead this club." -Matt Williams on Jayson Werth after the Break

"But it all boils down, every single -- in my opinion anyway -- every single guy it boils down to pitch selection. And if you can select a good pitch to hit, then you stay out of those mini-slumps and you're making consistent contact and therefore you're getting more hits and average comes up, on-base percentage comes up because you're not swinging at the bad ones and it's all related."

Since Werth stood up and is seeing the ball better, in the 11 games in July before the All-Star Break, he was 15 for 40 (.375/.490/.975) with six doubles, six home runs, eight walks and 11 Ks in 49 plate appearances. He ended the first half with a 2 for 3 game against the Philadelphia Phillies in which his three-run, first-inning home run got the Nats' offense rolling on the way to a 10-3 victory.

At the Break, he's back up to a .278/.366/.441 line on the year with 20 doubles and 12 HRs, 43 walks and 71 Ks in 90 games and 393 PAs. Hot as he was as the "first half" ended, Williams said Werth was one of several Nationals who could use a few days off to rest up for a stretch run he is being counted on to help lead.

"He's got experience," Williams said Sunday. "He's been in this situation before. He's got the ability to do a lot of things out there. From getting on base to hitting balls over the fence, driving runs in, he's had a really good July and I know he's dragging just a touch, so it's good to give him a few days. But he's a veteran guy, he knows what he's doing and he can lead this club.

Werth helped lead the Nationals in 2012.

After the All-Star Break that season, as the Nationals fought to bring postseason baseball back to the nation's capital for the first time in 79 years, Werth put up a .312/.394/.441 line in the second-half.

As the Nationals tried, but ultimately fell short of a return to the postseason last year, Werth put up a .339/.432/.600 line with 15 doubles and 15 HRs in the final 65 games and 273 PAs in 2013.

Can Werth do it again?

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