Werth continues recent surge with clutch hit

PHILADELPHIA - Daniel Murphy was the main topic of discussion last night, considering he went 3-for-4 with a homer, drove in the game-winning runs in the Nationals' 4-3 victory over the Phillies and raised his MLB-leading batting average to .395.

But Murphy never would have been in position to win the game if not for an equally important at-bat by Jayson Werth a few minutes earlier, so let's give the 37-year-old left fielder his due as well.

With two outs, two on and the Nationals still trailing 2-1 in the top of the eighth, Werth stepped up to face Phillies setup man Hector Neris, who has been close to untouchable this season. The right-hander entered with a 1.29 ERA and .138 opponents' batting average.

"That's one of the best eighth-inning guys in the league right now," Bryce Harper said.

Neris, though, got himself into trouble by walking both Danny Espinosa and Ben Revere.

Werth, who had been 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a weak grounder to first, wasn't surprised to find himself in that situation.

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"Ben came up, I thought they were going to be careful with him," Werth said. "They'd probably rather go after me, especially after my earlier at-bats. They probably felt like they had something on me. After Ben walked, I figured they were going to come after me. So I was going to be aggressive, not necessarily on the first pitch, but as the at-bat went on."

Werth wanted to be careful not to bite on one of Neris' split-finger fastballs down in the zone and end up rolling over another groundball. So he took strike one at the knees, then ball one low. Finally, he got a 1-1 pitch up in the zone and proceeded to hammer it over the third baseman's head for the game-tying base hit.

Slowly but surely, Werth is starting to look more like his old self at the plate. Over his last 15 games, he's now hitting .283 with a .333 on-base percentage.

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