I don’t know where to begin.
I’ll get to quotes from the walk-off hero, the starting pitcher who threw the game of his life with the pressure of an entire organization on his shoulders and all the other guys who contributed in between. First, here’s Davey Johnson.
The Nationals skipper said both after last night’s blowout loss and before today’s must-win Game 4 that he had no reason to doubt that his team would come through in a big spot. They entered today’s game confident despite the battle ahead of them, scratched and clawed for nearly three hours and eventually emerged with a thrilling 2-1 win.
“Gio (Gonzalez) was telling me days ago, ‘We’re going five, we’re going five, skip. Don’t worry about it, we’re going Game 5,’ ” Johnson said. “And today, he said, ‘What did I tell you? What did I tell you?’ These guys are all geared up for the moment.”
Gonzalez will now get to start that pivotal Game 5 in the best-of-five National League Division Series, this after Jayson Werth crushed a 3-2 pitch from Lance Lynn deep into the Washington night leading off the bottom of the ninth, sending the 44,392 in attendance at Nats Park into a frenzy and giving Werth a moment he’s been waiting for since signing with the Nationals prior to the 2011 season.
Werth saw 13 pitches in the at-bat, fouled off seven of them once he got to a two-strike count, and eventually got a fastball down and over the middle of the plate. He dropped the bat head to it, struck it cleanly and drove it off the back wall of the Cardinals bullpen for a walk-off homer.
“He’s a remarkable guy,” Johnson said. “He can force a pitcher to throw a lot of pitches, and he did that time. He did the same thing, you know, coming back after a rain delay (in a win against the Marlins). That’s the way that game should have ended - 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 sent everyone home elated, but they owe much of the credit for today’s dramatic win to starter Ross Detwiler, who pitched six innings, allowed only one unearned run and threw a season-high 104 pitches while holding off a dangerous Cardinals lineup.
“I tell you, I was so proud of him,” Johnson said. “He pitched. He didn’t start the game overthrowing, he pitched. ... In crucial spots, he used his changeup for a good strike. Used his curveball. Went in and out. He was just totally under control against a good hitting ballclub. It was great. Fun watching.
“He was outstanding. Unbelievable. Won the game for us.”
Johnson used Game 2 starter Jordan Zimmermann to serve as a bridge from Detwiler to his late-inning duo of Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen. Zimmermann, making his first career relief appearance, struck out the side in the seventh, hitting 97 mph on the gun and showing off a hard 91 mph slider with movement.
“He came in, and I mean, he was hyped,” Johnson said. “That’s the hardest I’ve seen him throw all year. I mean, his slider was like 91, and he just, some guys in our club said, ‘That’s our next closer.’ I said, ‘No way.’ But when he came off, I shook his hand and (pitching coach Steve McCatty) said, ‘How you feeling?’ and he said, ‘I’m drained.’ (McCatty) said, ‘Well, don’t be too drained, because you’re going to probably start in three days.’
“I had kind of a beat-up bullpen, so I really needed that seventh inning to do the job, and he did a heck of a job.”
Clippard and Storen did their jobs, and then Werth did his. As the ball flew out into the night, the Nats spilled out of their dugout, crowded around home plate, and bounced up and down with Werth in the center, smiling joyously amid the celebration. The Nats had put up just three hits, failed to get a single runner in scoring position and still won a must-win game.
“I was hoping, praying that it would happen in the ninth inning,” Johnson said. “I didn’t want to go to my bullpen after the crew I had used, because they are the most rested guys. But it’s fun to see young players have that much energy. You know, nobody was tired, and everybody was fired up, I think on both sides. I saw it on the Cardinals’ side, too. Those guys are throwing harder than they have ever been throwing. So everybody felt it.
“It’s going to be fun tomorrow night.”