How a foul ball might have gotten Jayson Werth out of his recent slump

With last night’s 7-1 win over the Rockies, the Nationals reached their highwater mark so far this season - seven games over .500.

They’re still a half-game behind the Braves (who have now won six straight) in the National League East, but things are definitely trending upward for Matt Williams’ bunch the last few weeks.

It’s only one game, but things appear to be trending upward for Jayson Werth, as well, this after Werth went 2-for-3 with two doubles, three RBIs and two walks last night.

Prior to last night’s contest, Werth had gone through a 16-game stretch where he had hit .145/.264/.177. He had just two extra-base hits in those 16 games (both doubles), had struck out 16 times and saw his average drop from .296 entering the Nats’ game against the Giants on June 12 to .266 entering last night’s game.

“Just been dealing with a little leak there for, God, feels like a couple months,” Werth said. “I’ve been battling, I’ve been grinding.”

Werth had been working hard with hitting coach Rick Schu during these last couple of weeks, trying to figure out a way to get back on track. Two nights ago, the two stayed late watching video of Werth’s swing. Schu decided to have Werth try and stand a little taller, a little more upright in his stance.

“He’s a big guy, so if he tends to get crouched, he tends to get too long with his stride,” Williams said last night. “It’s a minor adjustment, but he stood a little taller at the plate. Gets him on top of the baseball a little bit more and he was comfortable with that tonight.”

He sure looked comfortable, all right. And interestingly enough, Werth says a foul ball in his first at-bat last night indicated to him that he was on his way.

With the count 1-1 in the top of the first, Rockies starter Christian Friedrich threw a 91 mph fastball off the inside corner. Werth got the barrel to the ball and tomahawked it, smoking it well foul, but well down the line.

“I don’t remember the last time I did that,” Werth said afterward. “I felt pretty confident after that and put together a pretty good game. Hopefully I can build on that, and that’s the ticket going forward.”

Werth describes himself as a “feel guy” at the plate. It can sometimes be one positive game, one good at-bat that gets him locked in.

“Or one pitch,” Werth said. “It really can, yeah. I think that was that pitch, that swing tonight - that foul ball I hit. Hopefully that will be the one to get me going.

“(The swing) was short. The pitch was probably in off the plate, but I hit it hard. The ball found the sweet spot. That’s what you want. I felt like I had made the adjustment I wanted to make. It just kind of gives you some confidence and lets you settle in a little bit up there. The whole night, spitting on pitches that I’ve probably been swinging at - or whaling at - lately. It was good. I’ve been working hard, and I’m glad I came through tonight.”

Later in that first at-bat, Werth got a curveball and ripped it into the left field corner, bringing in the game’s first two runs. In the fourth, Werth got his hands inside a 94 mph heater and drove it to right-center for another run-scoring double.

“The second one was more telling, because the pitch was down and in,” Werth said. “That’s one thing I’ve been able to do throughout my career is really hit fastballs that are inside, I’ve been able to barrel those balls to right-center, and sometimes I’ll hit home runs to right center on pitches like that. That was more telling than the first one.

“I feel good. It’s not for lack of effort, that’s for sure. It was nice to come through for the guys tonight.”

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