As if it wasn’t enough that Jayson Werth continued his lengthy hot streak with a two-run go-ahead homer in the seventh that lifted the Nationals to victory tonight, it just happened to be Werth’s 1,000th career hit and it just happened to come against the 34-year-old’s former team.
Quite a memorable set of circumstances for Werth, who earned a curtain call after the home run and ended up going 3-for-5 with three RBIs in the Nats’ 8-5 win over the Phillies.
On the season, Werth is now batting .322 with a .397 on-base percentage and .527 slugging percentage. He missed half the season last year with a broken left wrist and sat out a month this season due to a right hamstring strain. But for the most part, he has been relatively healthy recently, which could be a major factor in his robust numbers.
“Coming back from the injury, he told me, ‘Don’t put me in the two-hole. I’m too strong,’ ” manager Davey Johnson said. “But he’s made some adjustments. He’s in a better position and his approach is outstanding. Since he came back from the latest little injury, every at-bat’s a quality at-bat. ... Last year, this year, his hands were real close to his body and he made some adjustments that made him more consistent in every at-bat. Talked to him a little bit today, he’s been doing that for about three weeks and he’s had power to all fields. He crushed that ball in the eighth inning. I thought that one might go. He sees the ball good. It’s great.
“I know he had some left wrist problems and right wrist problems, but in ‘11 he was strictly (hitting the ball to) right field. Even balls in on him, he’d serve them to right. And we talked after the 2011 season about going home, getting in a better position, getting stronger and coming back. And he did in ‘12, much better year. This year he had a little setback with the injury, but his approach has been pretty much from day one of spring training ... and he’s a veteran hitter, he knows what he’s looking for up there.”
Werth’s homer gave the Nats their first lead of the night after they’d trailed 4-0 early on, and the longball came one pitch after Bryce Harper tied the game in the seventh with a safety squeeze bunt.
Harper surprised everyone in the press box when he squared around on a 1-1 slider from Phillies lefty Jake Diekman, and while he popped the bunt up, the ball fell in front of second baseman Chase Utley and enabled Steve Lombardozzi to sprint home from third to tie the game.
This wasn’t a case of Harper bunting on his own against a left-hander, as the sign for the safety squeeze actually came from the dugout. What was Johnson’s thinking making that surprising call?
“Get a run in,” Johnson said with a smile. “That was, I don’t know if he’s ever bunted. But he wanted to know if the squeeze sign is different from the bunt sign. He asked Jayson Werth and he said, ‘I don’t know.’ “
Regardless, Harper got the job done and then the Nats’ bats exploded. Werth’s homer and Anthony Rendon’s two-run single helped lead to a comfortable win.
Taylor Jordan didn’t have his best stuff tonight in his eighth big league start, but he bounced back from a rough second inning in which he allowed four runs on five hits and held the Phillies scoreless over his final three frames.
Tanner Roark then followed with two scoreless innings of his own, and the rookie ended up collecting his first major league win when the Nats came from behind in the seventh.
“Second inning, (Jordan) was supposed to go away with a fastball to (Darin) Ruf and he left it up over the middle half. And his key is keeping the ball down,” Johnson said. “Sometimes he gets the ball up and tries to throw harder. (Pitching coach Steve McCatty) tells him just keep the ball down. He’s got great sink. I was concerned about him running out of gas like he did before, but he hung in there. Gave us three strong innings and set it up for Roark. And Roark was outstanding. I think he just faced six hitters. Outstanding.
“I like all (Jordan’s) pitches and he had a good slider tonight. I don’t think he knows how good his stuff is yet. He relies a lot on the catcher, where to go to. He doesn’t think about the count. Sometimes he goes to throw hard instead of just going with that good sink. And when he gets in that good rhythm ... Milwaukee, he was outstanding the first five innings. But he’s got a great arsenal. I really like his weapons.”
Johnson announced after the game that Jordan will get at least one more start before being shut down due to a team-imposed innings limit. The 24-year-old’s season is not over just yet.