With runners on first and third and one out in the ninth inning of what was then a 5-4 game in the Washington Nationals' favor, Danny Espinosa fouled off a 2-2 to pitch that shot past the catcher and ump and hit the wall behind home plate in Citizens Bank Park. Jayson Werth, who was on deck, picked up the ball and faked a toss to the crowd. After teasing the Phillies fans, Werth rolled the ball into the visiting dugout instead. The crowd reacted with anger immediately, turning their attention away from the plate where Danny Espinosa was in the process of striking out to focus on their former outfielder and boo him as he walked up to face Phillies' reliever Justin De Fratus. The crowd rose in anger in unison and cheered De Fratus as he got ahead 1-2 on the Nats' right fielder. "You bum!" a fan yelled, cleverly taunting the 32-year-old former Philly fan favorite who left for Washington, D.C. and a 7-year/$126M dollar deal in the winter of 2010-11 after helping Philadelphia to four-straight post season appearances in his four years with the team.
The love was lost long before last night, of course. If not the moment he signed with the Nats or in his first year in D.C., the love affair was over for good, for ever after Werth heard Phillies fans in D.C. taunting him after he broke his wrist in a game against Philadelphia in Nationals Park in May. Werth emailed the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore after the injury to tell the WaPost Nats beat writer that he was using the fans' comments for motivation and had every intention of paying them back. "I am motivated to get back quickly,'" Werth wrote, "'... and see to it personally those people never walk down Broad Street in celebration again.'"
The Phillies are playing for pride at this point, with no hope of a celebratory walk down Broad Street this season, but they seemed to be enjoying the spoiler role, having taken 6 of the last 7 from Washington before last night and Charlie Manuel and his team were doing all they could to win, rallying from a 5-0 deficit to get within one run at 5-4 after scoring on Tyler Clippard in the bottom of the eighth. Jayson Werth put and end to any thought of a comeback with one swing, however, taking a 3-1 fastball back up the middle to drive in two runs and give Washington a 7-4 lead in what ended up being an 8-4 win after Bryce Harper drove Werth in with an RBI triple.
Asked about the fake toss that riled up fans and had all of Citizens Bank Park booing him as he got the big hit in his former home park, Werth told reporters he had his reasons:
Werth on ball fake: "Behind the kids (he was going to flip to) were all these unruly middle-aged men that, to me, appeared to be snarling."— Amanda Comak (@acomak) September 27, 2012
Werth on the fans behind the Nats dugout: "I kind of got the sense maybe they were intoxicated."— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) September 27, 2012
Davey Johnson told reporters he thought his right fielder fed off the crowd's reaction. "I think he feeds off the boos," the Nats' skipper said, "Sometimes I think he gets too amped up here. But the boos kind of get him real focused and that was a huge hit up the middle." The Nationals were on the ropes. They held a four-game lead over Atlanta in the NL East with eight games left and they were in danger of blowing a one-run lead to the Phillies when they already knew the Braves had won their own game with the Miami Marlins.. The insurance runs Werth drove in emptied the park, sending the Phillies fans filing out of Citizens Bank. Some of them might drive home via Broad Street. But no parade will be held there this year.
• LINK: Werth explained the whole "fake ball toss" to the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore.