"Well that was fun," Davey Johnson said after last night's come-from-behind 8-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. "The mood in the clubhouse got a lot better," the Washington Nationals' 70-year-old manager joked, "and I got a lot smarter again, so... but what a night Jayson [Werth] had huh? Hit a home run for his 1,000th hit. That's exciting." Werth's first MLB hit was a single in his third MLB at bat on September 1, 2002. After another 1,090 games in the majors, the 34-year-old Nats' outfielder connected for hit no.1,000 in plate appearance no.4272 of his career. He almost went deep again in his 4,273rd PA, but ended up flying out to center instead.
Werth's 3 for 5 night in the Nationals' 56th win of 2013 left him with a .322/.397/.527 line on the year. The Nats' right fielder is putting together by far his best season in the nation's capital after signing a 7-year/$126M deal in the winter of 2010-11. Werth went on the DL earlier this summer with a .260/.308/.400 line, but since returning from the Disabled List on June 4th, the right-handed hitting and throwing outfielder has put up a .354/.438/.591 line with eight doubles and 13 HRs in 58 games and 233 PAs.
"I know he's feeling real healthy," Davey Johnson explained after last night's game. "Coming back from the injury, he told me, 'Don't put me in the two-hole, I'm too strong.' But he's made some adjustments. He's in a better position. His approach is outstanding. And since he came back from the latest little injury, every at bat is a quality at bat." Werth started his contract with the Nationals with a somewhat disappointing .232/.330/.389, 26 double, 20 HR season in 2011, but over the last two years he's been closer to the player he was with the Phillies before he signed his big seven-year deal.
In 166 games and 684 PAs in 2012-13, Werth has a .311/.392/.483 line, 31 doubles and 22 HRs. He missed significant time with a broken left wrist last season and a hamstring injury this year, but his manager since the middle of the 2011 campaign has been impressed with the changes he's made at the plate.
"Last year and this year, his hands were up close to his body," Johnson said, "and he made some adjustments that made him more consistent every at bat. Talked to him a little bit today. He's been doing that for three weeks and he's really been power to all fields. I mean, he crushed that ball in the eighth inning. I thought that one might go. But he sees the ball good. It's great."
"I know he had some left wrist problems and right wrist problems," the Nats' skipper continued, "but in 2011, he was strictly right field. I mean, even balls in on him he would serve them to right and we talked after the 2011 season about going home and getting in better position, getting stronger and coming back and he did and 2012, a much better year and this year, he had a little setback with the injury, but his approach has been pretty much from day one of Spring Training. And he's a veteran hitter and knows what he's looking for up there."
He may be prepared at the plate, but apparently Werth wasn't prepared for a postgame Gatorade bath last night. As Werth talked to MASN's Julie Alexandria, his teammates Bryce Harper and Craig Stammen doused the veteran outfielder, who turned to see it was his 20-year-old fellow outfielder holding the bucket. He laughed, a little. "That will cost him," Werth deadpanned. "I'll talk to Bryce about that one when I get inside."
He didn't want to talk about the way he's been hitting though. "It's one of those things you just don't talk about," Werth said, "You just come out and play the game hard and play the game the right way and play the game to win. We've got a long way to go. I haven't given up hope. We've got a good team. We've got a lot of games to play. And anything can happen in this game."