1-1 game. Bottom of the ninth. 44,392 red towel waving, screaming Nats fans hanging on every pitch. Jayson Werth vs St. Louis Cardinals' reliever Lance Lynn. "Let's Go Nats! Let's Go Nats!!" The Washington Nationals have talked for months now about the fans turning out to support the NL East Champs, but it's never been this loud. Standing at the plate, battling for 13 pitches, the Nats' $126M dollar outfielder didn't have any problem concentrating on what he was seeing and doing, however, as he explained to reporters shortly after the game.
"I didn't hear a thing," Werth said, "It was pretty quiet to me." Werth took a real close 79 mph curve for ball three on the 11th pitch he saw, 3-2 count, then fouled off a 97 mph four-seamer on pitch no.12 before absolutely crushing the 13th pitch of his epic at bat with the Cards' right-hander and sending the walk-off winner into the back of the visitor's bullpen to give the Washington Nationals a 2-1 win and force a Game 5 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
"It was a fastball," Werth said afterwards, "He's got a good fastball. Like I said, but after that 2-2 hook, it was pretty close. After that, I was on the heater." Werth entered the at bat with one hit in six career at bats against Lynn. "He's tough," the Nats' outfielder said, "We've faced him a lot over September and in the series. So I knew what he had. But I think he threw a hook, 2-2 to get to 3-2 and I figured from then on I wasn't going to get off the heater, fouled a couple more off and finally got one to hit."
"He's a remarkable guy," Davey Johnson said, talking about his right fielder, "He can force a guy to throw a lot of pitches, and he did that time." The Nats' skipper recalled the time Werth had done the same to beat to help beat Heath Bell and Miami after a long rain delay in Nationals Park a few weeks back. Turning back to tonight's win though, Johnson said that this was exactly how it was supposed to go. "That's the way the game should have ended," the 69-year-old skipper said, "Jayson Werth hitting a home run. He has not hit that many this year, What was it? A 13, 14-pitch at bat? Something like that? It was unbelievable. Great effort on his part."
Werth's done it before, but it was his first walk-off home run since 2010 when he was with the Phillies and took current teammate and Nats' closer Drew Storen deep in Citizens Bank Park. The Nats' reliever reminded Werth of that blast when he greeted him after the walk-off winner tonight. "[Storen] was one of the first people to come grab me," Werth said, "He told me that was familiar -- he said something, but he was looking back to that moment. I think he said he knew it was going to happen, so it was a special moment for sure."
Tonight's win in a tense, two-hour, fifty-five minute game set up a Game 5 with St. Louis tomorrow night. "Ball's in our court," Werth said, "We've got a chance. We've got a chance to win the series tomorrow. What a difference a day makes. I know we are going to come in ready to go tomorrow."
Perhaps more impressed than anyone else in the sell-out crowd of 44,392 was Jayson Werth's son, who, along with his brother, accompanied their father to the post game press conference tonight in Nats Park. Asked what he thought of what his father had done, Werth's son shyly spoke into the microphone and told reporters, "I thought it was amazing to see him hit a walk-off home run, and, um... yeah..."
Couldn't have said it better myself.
Game 5: Nats vs Cards - 8:37 pm EDT Friday in D.C.