Stop whatever it is you’re doing, folks. I’ve got some shocking news to pass along.
The Atlanta Braves actually lost a game yesterday, snapping their 14-game winning streak. Apparently the Upton brothers and their teammates are human, after all.
With that Atlanta loss and the Nationals’ win over the Phillies, yesterday marked the first time since all the way back on July 25 that the Nats actually made up ground on the Braves.
The Nats have now won two games in a row, and the deficit in the National League East has been trimmed to 14 1/2 games. With Cincinnati’s loss to the Padres, the deficit in the race for the final wild card is down to eight games, as well.
(Insert a joke about how the Nats are starting to build momentum here.)
The Nats won’t start that momentum talk again after just two straight wins over a mediocre Phillies team, but they were willing to bask in the positive vibes last night after their largest comeback win of the season.
It was a win that brought everyone back to happier times, with Bryce Harper dumping Gatorade on Jayson Werth during his postgame MASN interview on the field and manager Davey Johnson cracking jokes in his press conference.
“Mood in the clubhouse got a lot better and I got a lot smarter again,” Johnson said with a smile.
Werth’s theatrics last night helped lift the Nats to one of their more dramatic victories of the season, and further illustrated just how good the 34-year-old has been this season.
Because he missed a month with a hamstring injury, Werth has not accumulated enough plate appearances to qualify among the league leaders. But if he keeps up this level of play for another week or two, he’ll reach the minimum number of plate appearances necessary, and will find his name tossed in among the top players in the major leagues.
At the moment, Werth would rank fifth in the National League in batting average (.322), third in on-base percentage (.397) and fifth in slugging (.527). His OPS would be good for ninth in the majors.
Since coming off the DL on June 4, his slash line is a ridiculous .354/.438/.591, and he’s averaging a home run every 15.2 at-bats.
“He’s absolutely raking right now,” Harper said. “I mean, I’m trying to touch his bat so I can get some hits in there. He’s doing an unbelievable job leading this team. It’s a lot of fun to watch, being able to see him get hits against unbelievable pitchers and seeing him do his thing.”
In Werth’s best two seasons in Philly, the seasons that helped him score his seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nats, he combined to post a slash line of .282/.380/.519 with a 136 OPS+.
While injuries have obviously limited Werth’s number of games played over his last two seasons, his production when he’s been on the field has topped those final two years in Philly. Since the start of the 2012 season, Werth has a slash line of .311/.392/.483 with a 138 OPS+.
Werth might always be judged by that contract, the one that will still pay him $21 million in his age-38 season in 2017, but lately, he’s played well enough to deserve that money. He’s outperformed many of the top sluggers in baseball, and is carrying a Nationals offense that has badly needed a leader over the last handful of months.