Jayson Werth, the focus of so much agonized discussion among Washington Nationals fans over the last few weeks, didn’t get the big hit in this 4th of July thriller. But he did score the winning run, drove in two more, walked twice, and helped cut down a runner at the plate as the Nationals scrambled back to the .500 mark, defeating the Chicago Cubs 5-4 in 10 innings in front of most of an announced crowd of 32,937 at Nationals Park.
Washington’s winning sequence was classic National League baseball. After Werth worked a walk off losing pitcher Marcos Mateo, he was bunted over to 2nd base by pinch-hitter Livan Hernandez. Hernandez was actually the second pitcher to pinch-hit in the game as Nationals manager Davey Johnson was forced to creatively manage his shortened bench in the absence of Michael Morse (hairline fracture of the forearm). After Mateo was forced to depart with an injury in favor of Carlos Marmol, Werth caught the Cubs infield defense napping and stole third without even drawing a throw. Finally, when Marmol’s 2-2 pitch slipped past Geovany Soto and bounced around the backstop, Werth raced home with the winning run.
It was the perfect end to an up-and-down day for the $126 million man. Werth’s broken-bat single in the bottom of the first drove home Danny Espinosa and made the score 2-0, Washington. But Werth was also a supporting player in one of the worst defensive plays seen from the Nationals at any point in their history.
In the fourth inning, with two runners on and two outs, Alfonso Soriano lifted what appeared to be an easy fly ball to right-center field. Werth and center fielder Roger Bernadina each advanced to points about five feet apart, then stood and stared at each other as the ball dropped between them. It was so incompetent and stunning that it took on the feel of performance art. By the time the stricken fielders humped the ball back to the infield, both Aramis Ramirez and Marlon Byrd had crossed the plate to give Chicago a 3-2 lead.
The negligence was particularly cruel to Jordan Zimmermann, who saw his string of quality starts (which dated back to April 26) snapped thanks in large part to that play. But the young right-hander would have surely taken the loss without Werth’s intervention in the sixth inning. With the bases loaded and two men out, Zimmermann’s final pitch of the afternoon was lined into right field by Soto. Ramirez scored to give Chicago a two-run lead, but Werth’s throw to the plate arrived in just enough time for Ivan Rodriguez to gather the ball, twist his body around, and swipe tag Carlos Pena for the final out of the inning.
Thus reprieved, the Nats went to work on Chicago’s bullpen, for whom 3.2 innings proved to be too much of a task after Casey Coleman kept Washington off balance for the better part of 5.1 innings. Werth cut Chicago’s lead to 4-3 with an RBI groundout in the sixth, but he had the Nationals Park crowd screaming in frustration in the bottom of the seventh. The Nationals had already tied the game thanks to the generosity of Kerry Wood, who came on in relief of Sean Marshall and proceeded to walk Ryan Zimmerman (pinch-hitting for starting third baseman Alex Cora), hit Espinosa, and walk Laynce Nix with the bases loaded. But Werth couldn’t finish the job, swinging over a curveball to end the inning. But instead of capping an ultimately frustrating day, Werth’s strikeout served as a prelude to a triumphant sprint home.
Nationals promote Harper to Harrisburg
Prior to the start of Monday afternoon’s game, the Nationals announced that outfielder Bryce Harper, the first overall pick in the 2010 Entry Draft, had been called up to the Harrisburg Senators (AA) of the Eastern League. Harper was expected to make his Harrisburg debut on Monday night against the Erie Seawolves (Detroit Tigers). The 18-year-old Harper played in 72 games for Hagerstown of the low-A South Atlantic League, batting .318 with 14 home runs and 46 runs batted in. He also posted a .423 on-base percentage and a .977 OPS in 305 total plate appearances.