Batting practice pitcher Ali Modami informed Jayson Werth after his sixth-inning single that the outfielder was one hit away from 1,000 for his career.
Werth didn’t need to wait long before putting himself in that thousand-hit club.
Just an inning later, Werth launched a two-run homer to left, giving the Nationals their first lead of the game and pushing Werth into four-digit-hit territory for his career.
“Definitely a milestone,” Werth said. “When you set out playing this game however many years ago, that was one benchmark you put on the list of things you want to accomplish. So, it was good.”
Does it make it any more special being that it happened with the Phillies standing in the visiting dugout?
“I mean, not really,” Werth said. “You’ll take accomplishments like that as you can get them. But I spent a lot of time with those guys over there and I’ve got a lot of memories. A lot of those hits along the way came in Philly and came with those guys. So I’m sure they weren’t as happy to see it as I was, but at the same time, I’m glad they were there to see it.”
Werth got a curtain call from the 32,676 at Nationals Park and then was showered with cheers by those in the right field bleachers when he ran out to his defensive position after the half inning.
It was only two years ago that Werth was on the receiving end of boos from many Nationals fans during his rough 2011 season. Things have changed a lot since then.
“Any time you gain respect from the fans and from the city, it’s definitely a good thing,” Werth said. “I know that first season was tough for everybody. More so for myself than anyone else. But last year, with the injury, it’s been a tough road. But I’m excited about the future here in Washington and I’m glad that the city and the fans can see what I’m all about and I think the best is still yet to come.”
Doctors told Werth after he broke his left wrist last May that it could take up to 18 months for the wrist to fully heal. Werth says he felt pretty good health-wise a few weeks into spring training, but it’s clear that he’s got more strength in the wrist now than he did late in the season last year.
“I do have a plate and umpteen screws in my wrist so it’ll probably never be the same or it’ll never be what it was, but it’s definitely manageable and every day that goes by I think I put that injury behind me even more,” Werth said. “I feel good. We’ve got a long way to go and you’re going to get bumped up, banged up, nicks and bruises, but you try to stay on the field as much as you can.”
While doing an interview with MASN on the field after the game, Werth got a bucket of Gatorade dumped on him by Bryce Harper, who was happy to douse his friend and mentor.
How does Werth plan to respond?
“I can’t give away all the secrets,” Werth said with a slight smile, “but you know what they say about payback.”
“It was great,” Harper said of his Gatorade attack. “Unbelievable moment for him, being able to get his 1,000th career hit on a homer against them. It’s pretty unbelievable. I’m very happy for him. Hopefully we can keep going. ...
“I love J-Dub. He’s a leader on this team and one of the guys that really took me under his wing and really taught me the past two years. To be able to see him do that was pretty unbelievable. What an incredible teammate and person he is.”
Harper had a big moment of his own in the seventh inning, when he got the sign from third base coach Trent Jewett to lay down a safety squeeze bunt with Steve Lombardozzi representing the tying run on third and one out. Harper got the sign on the first pitch, but laid off a ball out of the zone. He swung through a slider on the 1-0 pitch, and then was given the sign again before the 1-1 offering from Phillies lefty Jake Diekman.
Harper squared on the 1-1 pitch and popped the bunt up, but got it down in front of second baseman Chase Utley, allowing Lombardozzi to score. It wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done.
“I mean, he hung a slider, so it kind of caught me off-guard a little bit,” Harper said. “I think if it was a fastball, it would’ve gone straight into the ground, because he has pretty good two-seam action on his fastball. The slider, I tried to hit it into right field, it looked like. Thankfully it fell in front of Utley and we got that run.”
As for the call for the squeeze, Harper approved.
“I love it,” he said. “I think that’s great. Being able to get a run in and being able to tie things up for J-Dub was something we needed to do. Getting something and laying it down was very crucial in that situation.”
How would Werth grade Harper’s bunt?
“S - for surprising,” Werth cracked. “But it worked out.