Walk-off homer keeps Nats alive
WASHINGTON—Hours before Jayson Werth’s game-ending homer on a 13-pitch at-bat extended the Washington Nationals’ surprising season, before a bullpen trio got eight-consecutive outs via strikeouts, and before Ian Desmond’s acrobatic catch, a guy who isn’t even on the playoff roster fired up a team facing elimination against the defending champs.
Mark DeRosa, a spare-part utility player who made his major-league debut 14 years ago, grabbed the microphone of his clubhouse karaoke machine and quoted from Roosevelt’s rousing 1910 “Man in the Arena” speech—aiming to make the Nationals think they could beat the St. Louis Cardinals and set up a Game 5 in their NL division series tonight.
Worked wonders, apparently.
“Epic” was closer Drew Storen’s description. “It’s the stuff movies are made of.”
So was the scene in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 4 yesteday, when Washington beat St. Louis 2-1 to tie their NLDS at 2-2.
Joyous, bouncing teammates waiting to greet him, the red-clad crowd raucous as can be, Werth yanked off his batting helmet with two hands and thrust it a dozen or more feet overhead before leaping onto home plate after his big hit.
A little less than two years ago, the Nationals showered Werth with millions, persuading him to come show them how to win.
With one swing of his black bat at dusk yesterday, Werth wiped away whatever disappointments marred his early days in D.C.
Werth led off the bottom of the ninth against reliever Lance Lynn by fouling off pitch after pitch before sending the ball beyond the wall in left field, giving the Nationals a tense victory.
“That’s the way that game should have ended: Jayson Werth hitting a home run,” Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson said.
“Unbelievable. Great effort on his part.”
The best-of-five series will end tonight in Washington, with the winner advancing to face the San Francisco Giants in the NL championship series.
The starters are a rematch of Game 1, which Washington won 3-2: Gio Gonzalez on the mound for the NL East champion Nationals and Adam Wainwright for the wild-card Cardinals.
“It’s what you play all season for, and what you work out all winter for, and what you get to spring training early for,” Werth reasoned.
“We have a chance tomorrow [Friday] to take that next step.
“I know my teammates will be ready. And the city will, too,” he added.
The homer was Werth’s first of the series, and the 14th of his post-season career.
He won the 2008 World Series and a string of division titles with the Philadelphia Phillies, then moved to Washington before last season as a free agent on a seven-year, $126-million contract that stunned much of baseball.
He managed to hit only five homers with 31 RBIs in 2012, missing 75 games because of a broken left wrist.
Last year, his first in Washington, Werth hit just .232 with 58 RBIs—and there was grumbling about his worth.
That vanished when Werth circled the bases, raising his right index finger in a “No. 1” gesture while the announced attendance of 44,392 roared, and other Nationals raced out of their dugout to greet him.