When Jayson Werth saw the sharp ground ball get through the infield, allowing the game-winning run to touch home, he tossed his bat aside, left the arm extended for a second and casually trotted down to first base.
After 13 innings of minimal hits and missed offensive opportunities, was that the look of relief?
“That was let’s go home,” Werth said. “Didn’t want to go home without the win, though, that’s for sure. You play that long and to lose, that stinks.”
Going into Werth’s at-bat, the Nationals had gone 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and had left 11 on base against Cincinnati. But the Nats’ right fielder made all the offensive failures moot when he took a 1-2 Sean Marshall curveball and smacked it up the middle for the winning hit.
What was the approach?
“Just barrel up the ball,” Werth said. “He got ahead and ended up throwing me a hook and I barreled it up the middle. (First baseman Joey) Votto was off the bag, I thought about maybe push-bunting for an easy stick, but I went ahead and finished the at-bat.”
In his on-field interview on MASN immediately after the win, Werth made a point to thank the fans who stayed around to watch all 13 innings. It’s no secret that Werth wasn’t always a fan favorite last season when he was in the midst of his season-long struggles, and he drew a smattering of boos earlier in Friday night’s game when he struck out swinging in the seventh, making him 0-for-3 at the time.
But the veteran right fielder said that treatment doesn’t bother him, and he downplayed the significance that this one base hit will make on the way the fan base as a whole accepts him.
“Fans are fans,” Werth said. “They pay good money to watch us play, so they’re entitled to yell and scream and boo and hiss and cheer and throw things. Well, maybe not throw things. But no, I thought it was awesome. That was a long game on a Friday night, and there are probably a few other places they could have been, but they hung in there pretty good. I’ve definitely seen not only here, but other places, where by the 11th inning, there’s no one in the seats, so I thought that was awesome.”
If Werth is going to start winning the fan base over, this is the way to do it - clutch hits in big situations. But according to Ryan Zimmerman, the acceptance of the viewing public isn’t what matters to Werth. It’s performing for his team and getting the job done in big spots which is what’s important.
“I don’t think he cares about winning over people,” Zimmerman said. “I mean, he wants to be liked, just like everyone else. And I don’t see why anyone shouldn’t like him. He came out every day last year and played different positions, hit in different spots in the order and did a lot of things that a lot of people in his position wouldn’t have been open to do. I think with the injuries and stuff we had last year, he was asked to do a lot that he shouldn’t have been.
“The second half of the year when we started getting healthy, he played a lot better. He’s off to a good start this year. He’s a good player. He’s an all-around player that can do a lot of things to help us win.”
He sure did tonight.