All season, Jayson Werth has talked of being "close" to finding his swing, as though it were an animal whose scent he was tracking through the woods.
This season has been a series of adjustments and counter-adjustments at the plate for Werth, all delivering only sporadic results and all coming under the scrutiny that rightly goes with a seven-year, $126 million deal. At the end of August, though, Werth finally believes he's where he wants to be at the plate. The game he had on Monday night would suggest that's true.
Werth doubled to left in the second inning, stinging a slider from Joe Saunders. And in the fourth, with two men on base and creating the kind of situation where Werth has stumbled most of the year, he hit one of his most encouraging homers of the season. When Saunders threw him a fastball on the outer half of the plate, Werth drilled it to right field, hitting it definitively enough that he had time to stop and watch it leave the park. The three-run homer put the Nationals up 4-0, and wound up being the difference in their 4-1 win.
"My power's to right field when I'm right," Werth said. "I think that was evident tonight. I should do that more often. It's a great ballpark to hit in. That right-center gap is, I think, closer than it looks sometimes. I'll take advantage of that a little bit more, and just keep working the right way. We've still got a lot of baseball left."
When Werth would hit balls to right center in Citizens Bank Park - where the gaps are easy pickings for a line-drive hitter - he'd get home runs on shots that wouldn't leave many other ballparks in the majors. But he has done his best work when taking the ball the other way, hitting .303 on balls to right field. Though he's only hit two homers in that direction, he's hoping he'll hit more if his swing is finally locked in.
Asked again what he had been doing to change his swing, Werth declined to give much detail, going back to his usual answer that the process is too technical to explain well. He eventually offered that he'd been doing a few drills to keep his hands inside the ball, and those have finally put him in a spot where he feels comfortable at the plate.
"I can be locked in and not get any hits. Like (Sunday), I felt great at the plate, and didn't really have a lot to show for it," Werth said of his 1-for-5 day against the Phillies. "I got some pitches called. Roy Halladay's pretty nasty, but I saw him good."
And Monday, he finally did some damage against a left-handed pitcher, which has been a major source of frustration for him all season.
Werth is hitting .185 against lefties, after batting .303, .302 and .287 against them the last three seasons. He's been susceptible to pitches on the outer half of the plate, but on Monday, manager Davey Johnson said to him, "Oh, so you can hit lefties."
"I didn't really appreciate that," Werth joked. "It was a struggle, really, to find it. It's been a long time coming. I knew where it was. I just didn't really know how to get there. But finally I feel like I've gotten there, so hopefully we'll be alright."