PHILADELPHIA - The momentum had completely swung in the Phillies’ favor.
They had cut the Nationals’ lead from five all the way down to one after eight innings. Despite only being about half-full by the time the top of the ninth rolled around, Citizens Bank Park was starting to rock again.
Then, as Jayson Werth stepped to the plate to a chorus of boos, he delivered a monster base hit to center, scoring two runs and all but putting the game out of reach. The Nats went on to win 8-4, cutting their magic number to four and keeping pace with the streaking Braves.
“Jayson thrives on that kind of stuff,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “When it’s all stacked up against him, he comes through.”
Werth’s hit was huge for the team, but given his history with the Phillies and the venom he always seems to receive when he’s here, the hit might have registered on a personal level, as well. He gave a big clap of the hands when he rounded first base and was clearly aware of the fans streaming to the exits as the game got pushed further out of reach.
“These fans going crazy, booing him, telling him he sucks and whatnot, they don’t know what they’re missing,” center fielder Bryce Harper said. “He’s an unbelievable ballplayer and he’s been clutch for us all year. He’s what gets us going.”
Manager Davey Johnson said he feels Werth feeds off the boos, which sometimes gets him a little over-amped, but also can bring the best out of him. Werth wouldn’t go that far, however.
“I mean, I’m not the first guy to get booed nor will I be the last,” he said. “It’s just part of the game. It makes for exciting baseball. These people are passionate.”
Their passion was evident during Werth’s at-bat in the ninth, but what set up the dramatic scene was his interaction with the crowd while he was in the on-deck circle. Werth faked like he was going to toss a ball to a fan, only to pull back and instead toss it into the Nats’ dugout.
So what exactly happened there?
“Well, earlier in the game, I flipped a ball in the seats in right field to a fan and it bounced off her hands and landed on somebody else’s lap,” Werth said. “And then a guy reached over, a Phillies fan reached over into her lap, grabbed the ball and then threw it back on the field. In the ninth, when I got the ball, I was going to flip the ball to a group of kids, and then behind the kids were like all these unruly middle-aged men that, to me, appeared to be snarling.”
Just so you’re aware, the reporters talking with Werth were all starting to crack up by this point.
“And it’s the ninth,” Werth continued. “Who knows, I kind of got the sense that maybe they were intoxicated, but maybe not. So I was going to flip it to the kids and then I thought maybe I shouldn’t because (of) the people right behind those innocent little children there. So I just flipped it into the dugout and evidently that rubbed some people the wrong way. But after the events in right field, I just felt that it was better to maybe not throw it into the stands.”
The fake-out riled up the park, and the noise only increased in volume and ferocity when Phillies reliever Justin De Fratus threw an 0-1 pitch just under Werth’s chin. He got the last laugh three pitches later, but chose not to gloat after the game, instead thinking back on the positive times he had in Philly.
“I mean, not that I’ve heard it all, but I’ve heard a lot when I played here (and) when I’ve been a visiting player,” Werth said. “Somebody was saying today that when Roy (Halladay) got chased the other day, he got booed when he came off the field. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but not surprising. It’s just how it is. It is what it is. It’s really just part of playing in Philadelphia. That’s what makes it great.
”...But you can’t take away, never take away from me what I accomplished here. What those teams did. My time spent here in this town. The endless free meals I got from fans and Philadelphians. It’s just part of it. It’s not really too upsetting. I’m perfectly fine with it.”