After lineup switch, Werth turns into table-setter again

NEW YORK - The last time he reached base five times in a game, Jayson Werth was serving as the Nationals' leadoff man. It was Sept. 2012, and manager Davey Johnson's unconventional move to put Werth atop his lineup was paying significant dividends.

Werth actually reached base five times on two separate occasions in the span of two weeks that fall, becoming an unlikely but excellent table-setter for a Nationals lineup that was in peak form on its way to 98 wins and its first-ever division title.

Was it mere coincidence Werth duplicated the feat last night, nearly four years later, only one day after manager Dusty Baker moved him up to the No. 2 spot in his lineup after spending most of the season to date in the No. 6 spot?

Jayson Werth swing gray.png"It's funny how things work," Werth said. "I didn't really feel that comfortable hitting sixth, for whatever reason. I've hit sixth before. But the feel of it, just didn't feel like I was in the flow of the game very well. But hitting second, it kind of changed and switched things up, got my thinking switched up a little bit. It felt pretty comfortable the last couple nights. Maybe it helped."

It certainly helped during last night's 7-1 win over the Mets. Werth drew three walks, singled, doubled, stole a base and scored three runs. That's the kind of performance you expect from a traditional table-setter, something Werth is not. And yet, he has proven in the past he can thrive in that role when given the opportunity.

When the 2012 Nationals were lacking a traditional leadoff hitter, Johnson moved Werth into that spot. He wound up hitting .309 with a .388 on-base percentage in 38 games, scoring 25 runs.

And when last year's team was in a late-summer funk, manager Matt Williams tried it out as well, putting a then-slumping Werth in the leadoff role and watching as he hit .318 with a .388 on-base percentage in 21 games, scoring 16 runs.

"That's kind of been my MO over the course of my career," he said. "I've been an on-base guy. Drive in guys in or whatever, but my on-base percentage - I don't know where it's at overall - but it's got to be up there."

Werth owns a career .363 on-base percentage, 17th among all active players with at least 5,000 plate appearances.

"Jayson gets on base, it makes it easier for the guys after him," Baker said. "That's part of his job, and part of his job is to score some runs and drive in some runs. So he had an outstanding day."

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