There are 162 games in a regular season, but the Nationals are making a recent habit of “this win was better than that one” with each passing series victory.
On a getaway Wednesday, the Nationals found a way to come back three separate times and shock the Chicago Cubs 5-4 in a 12-inning, four-hour and 17-minute heavyweight battle.
The two of the three 40-win teams in the National League put together a thriller of a finale before a standing room only crowd of 42,000 at Nats Park.
And those that stayed for the entire game? It was worth the wait.
Jayson Werth finished off the Cubs with a dramatic run-scoring single off the wall in right-center field, scoring Michael A. Taylor to win the series. The base hit was Werth’s second walk-off winner in a matter of four days.
He did the same thing in Sunday’s bottom of the ninth rally to beat the Phillies 5-4.
This time it was against Cubs reliever Adam Warren. Werth connected on a 1-0 two-seam fastball and rounded first looking back to see Taylor crossing the plate. Werth then raced out to right field to repeat the celebration his club enjoyed on Sunday.
“We should do this more often,” Werth smiled. “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on out there. It was a crazy game. I’m just glad we ended up on the right side of it.”
The 12th inning had enough drama to last an entire game.
Trailing 4-3, Anthony Rendon was thrown out of the game after a called third strike. Manager Dusty Baker came out to argue. He said home plate umpire Bob Davidson told him he thought Rendon was going to throw the bat at him.
“(Davidson) says he wasn’t gonna take that,” Baker described. “And I said ‘man, he wasn’t going to throw the bat at you.’ And he said ‘well, he looked like it.’ And so maybe he’s a mind reader. I mean, Anthony wasn’t going to throw the bat at him. C’mon man. That’s the explanation that I got from him.”
The next batter, Danny Espinosa, was hit by a pitch. He stole second. Taylor then tied the game with a dramatic RBI single and it was 4-4.
After pinch-hitter Chris Heisey flew out, Werth delivered the clutch winner.
Baker was impressed with his club and the delivery of the best of birthday presents. He turned 67 on Wednesday.
“They showed me they don’t quit,” Baker said. “And that an adverse event doesn’t take away their spirit. Kept fighting and fighting.”
With Rendon ejected, the Nationals were looking to win the game in the 12th or Baker was going to put catcher Jose Lobaton, his final available bench player, at third base.
But thanks to Taylor and Werth, he didn’t have to make that unorthodox of defensive moves.
“They got some clutch hits, we got some clutch hits, and that was a clutch stolen base by Danny after getting hit by the pitch,” Baker said. “And then Michael Taylor got a big base hit, and I was trying to decide who we’re going to take out of the game. And I decided I wasn’t going to take Jayson out cause late in the game, he’s a clutch man. So things worked out for us.”
Not to mention this win came against the team with the best record in the National League. The confidence boost makes the long flight to California that much sweeter as the team embarks on another 10-game road swing.
“You always talk about having a happy flight,” Werth said. “I think we should have a happy flight at least. This is a tough stretch for us. It’s not going to be easy. Better off on this side of it than the other.
And he noted that these two teams could meet again in a postseason matchup. The teams have now split a pair of series, but the Cubs won the season series 5-2.
“They got a good team,” Werth said. “We’ve got a good team. That was a battle. It was a good series. We played tough games at their place, too. We got swept, but I felt like we played good, good enough to win a couple of them games.
“We’ll see what happens. We’ll see who’s who and who’s where at the end and figure it out then.”
There’s still a long way to go, of course. But Wednesday in D.C. the 12-inning tug of war between the NL’s two best teams sure felt like an October tilt just as June reached its halfway point.