The weather fortunately didn’t factor into yesterday’s series finale between the Nationals and Braves, despite the ridiculously dark clouds that hung over top of Turner Field for much of the afternoon.
It did factor into my attempts to get home last night, however. I didn’t get in until after 2 a.m., thanks to a lengthy delay and issues at BWI upon our landing there, but given that a number of flights out of Atlanta were canceled last night, I’m feeling pretty fortunate to have eventually gotten to my own bed at some point.
The Nats will enjoy their off-day today, especially since it’s their lone breather in a 17-day span. They’ll get back at it tomorrow when the Mets come to town for a three-game set, and the Nationals will be thrilled to have Jayson Werth back for the start of that series.
Werth has missed the Nats’ last 29 games with a strained right hamstring, but he’ll finally be ready to return after finishing off a successful rehab stint at high Single-A Potomac. Yesterday, Werth put the cap on his five games with the P-Nats, crushing two three-run homers and playing a full nine innings.
“That’ll be a shot in the arm,” manager Davey Johnson said. “He must’ve been really feeling frisky. He’ll be ready to carry us on his shoulders, I’m sure.”
During his stint with the P-Nats, Werth hit .450 with two home runs, eight RBIs and two walks. Obviously, that’s against high Single-A pitching. We shouldn’t expect Werth to come up and crush two homers in his first game back with the Nats and mash at a .450 clip for the rest of the season. Johnson’s comment about Werth carrying the Nats on his shoulders was said with a half-smile (all that could be mustered after yesterday’s loss) and a twinge of sarcasm.
But Werth provides another proven, potent bat to a lineup that’s lacking just that right now. There’s a good chance that Johnson will slot Werth back in the No. 2 spot in the lineup, where he started the season and where there’s been a gaping hole since Werth was moved out of that spot due to various injuries.
With Werth out of the No. 2 spot, it’s been a revolving door as Johnson has looked for someone to slide in and be a table-setter in front of the Nats’ big bats.
Bryce Harper, Steve Lombardozzi, Roger Bernadina, Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond have all gotten a crack at hitting second with Werth out of that spot, and those five guys have combined to post a feeble .170/.210/.248 slash line when hitting in the No. 2 hole.
Werth will provide some stability to the lineup, and his return to right field will also be a big boost, given the Nats have often been playing with at least one converted infielder in a corner outfield spot with Werth and Harper out. Yesterday, the Nats had two converted infielders in the outfield, with Lombardozzi in left and Tyler Moore in right.
“It’ll be nice to have him back,” Desmond said of Werth. “He’s a huge part of our team, as far as leadership, character, things like that. And he can contribute on the baseball field.”
The off-the-field stuff that Werth brings can be plenty important, as well, especially when the Nationals are struggling the way that they are right now. Werth has seen it all in his career and he’s been a part of more than a few team-wide slumps.
He’ll be able to provide a little perspective and advice to a team that’s in need of an emotional boost right now.
“It’d be big,” Adam LaRoche said. “Just having him in there, you always hear about guys and their presence in the lineup, but he’s a guy that can wreak some havoc on the bases, great defender and has a knack for getting on base. That’s what we need right now.”
Werth won’t be able to turn things around by himself, but his presence will certainly help a team that has struggled mightily to get on base (lowest on-base percentage in the majors) and score runs (fourth-fewest runs scored in the majors), and played poor defense (third-lowest fielding percentage in the majors).
Now if the Nats could also get Harper, Wilson Ramos, Stephen Strasburg, Ross Detwiler and Ryan Mattheus back from injuries, that’d help a bit, too.