WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Nationals signed Jayson Werth to show them how to win. His game-ending homer Thursday night extended their surprising season.
Werth led off the bottom of the ninth inning by driving Lance Lynn’s 13th pitch into the left-field stands to give the Nationals a 2-1 victory over the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals and force a Game 5 in their NL division series.
As he circled the bases, Werth raised his right index finger in a “No. 1″ gesture, while the announced crowd of 44,392 roared. The other Nationals raced out of the dugout to greet Werth, who tossed his red batting helmet high in the air before jumping on home plate and being enveloped by a bouncing collection of thrilled teammates.
The best-of-five series will end Friday night in Washington, with the winner advancing to face the San Francisco Giants in the NL championship series. The starters will provide a rematch of Game 1, which Washington won, with Gio Gonzalez on the mound for the Nationals, and Adam Wainwright for the Cardinals.
“It will be a lot like today. It’s what it’s all about. It’s what you play all season for and what you work out all winter for and what you get to spring training early for,” Werth said. “We have a chance tomorrow to take that next step. I know my teammates will be ready and the city will, too.”
The homer was Werth’s first with the Nationals but 14th of his career in the postseason. He won the 2008 World Series and a string of division titles with the Philadelphia Phillies before moving to Washington as a free agent before last season on a $126 million contract that stunned much of baseball.
He gets a ton of credit for helping steer a quick turnaround: The Nationals lost 100 games in 2008 and 2009, but led the majors with 98 wins and won their division this year.
“When I signed here, my first day here, I went to a Capitals game, a hockey game, (and) the place was packed. Somebody said, ‘Just a few short years ago, this place was empty.’ So I knew that a winning ballclub would bring the fans,” Werth said, “and here we are, two years later and they’re showing up and it’s awesome.”
Werth’s shot provided a sudden end to a classic postseason contest filled with tremendous pitching. Each team managed only three hits.
Lynn, usually a starter for St. Louis but a reliever in these playoffs, was making his third appearance of this series. He was the Cardinals’ third pitcher — and faced only one batter — and manager Mike Matheny was asked afterward why he didn’t use closer Jason Motte.
“If we were at home, it would have been a very easy decision to bring in Motte,” Matheny said, explaining that if he used up his closer and St. Louis went ahead later in the game, a reliever not used to getting a save would have needed to try.
“Had a lot of confidence in Lance. He came in throwing the ball well. Werth just put together a very good at-bat,” Matheny added.
Cardinals batters did not down the stretch. They made eight consecutive outs via strikeouts against three Nationals pitchers — Jordan Zimmermann, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, who threw the top of the ninth and got the win.
Storen walked No. 8 hitter Pete Kozma with two outs, before getting pinch hitter Matt Carpenter out on a twisting, stumbling overhead catch by shortstop Ian Desmond, who wound up sliding on his belly in short left field. When Desmond rose, he threw the ball into the stands and yelled.
Moments later, Werth had all the red-clad, towel-twirling spectators yelling, too, thanks to the way he turned on a 96 mph fastball. For much of the game, the hometown fans were rather quiet, perhaps dreading a sooner-than-expected end to their team’s better-than-expected year.
Starters Kyle Lohse, who won the wild-card playoff game for St. Louis against Atlanta last week, and Ross Detwiler were both superb.
Lohse lasted seven innings, allowing one run and two hits. Detwiler went six, with one unearned run and three hits all he conceded.
Lohse was replaced by Mitchell Boggs, who struck out pinch hitter Chad Tracy with a man on to end the eighth, before giving way to Lynn.
While nearly to a man — except, naturally, for Werth — the young Nationals are new to this sort of thing, the wild-card Cardinals have quite the postseason pedigree: Over the past two years, St. Louis is 5-0 in games where it faces elimination, including must-have victories in Games 6 and 7 of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers.
“We got a lot of experience, a lot of confidence built. Just going to the World Series and winning the World Series, having to play a Game 7 and come out on top — you’re seeing a lot of us use that experience so far in this postseason,” St. Louis first baseman Allen Craig said. “We had a tough, do-or-die game in Atlanta and came out on top, and after we won that game, I think we started to feel really good about ourselves and get that feeling like we had last year.”
Washington entered Game 4 with all sorts of problems at the plate in the series: 3 for 24 with runners in scoring position, 30 men left on base, a total of only seven runs. Despite those struggles, Nationals manager Davey Johnson didn’t make any changes at all to his lineup.
As it turned out, the Nationals didn’t have an at-bat with anyone in scoring position all game. Both runs came on solo shots.
Cleanup hitter Adam LaRoche put Washington ahead 1-0 in the second, fouling off three consecutive pitches before depositing Lohse’s full-count 92 mph sinker onto the grass berm beyond center field.
In the third, the Cardinals tied it without a hit. Detwiler walked Kozma — a rookie Johnson referred to as “Cosmos” before the game — and after a sacrifice bunt, Jon Jay reached on an error when Desmond booted a grounder. Carlos Beltran’s sac fly scored Kozma.
Detwiler is the fourth member of Washington’s postseason staff — odds are he wouldn’t have been in the rotation if Stephen Strasburg were still pitching, instead of shut down — but he was terrific. With his 104th and last pitch, Detwiler got Daniel Descalso to ground out.
In came Zimmermann for the first relief appearance of his career. Zimmermann, who started and lost Game 2, said beforehand that he’d never even set foot in the bullpen area before, but added: “I’ll be ready to go if the phone rings.”
Was he ever. Zimmermann struck out all three batters in the seventh. In the eighth, it was Clippard’s turn. The pitcher who lost the closer’s job after a rough late-season stretch came in and also got each of his three outs on Ks, working around a walk and leaving the mound punching the air after getting Yadier Molina to swing through a 94 mph fastball.
And in the ninth, Storen added two more strikeouts before Desmond’s great grab.
NOTES: Nationals rookie Bryce Harper was hitless in three at-bats, leaving him at 1 for 18 in the series. … In Game 3 on Wednesday, Cardinals RHP Chris Carpenter became only the second starting pitcher in baseball history to win a postseason game after not having any wins during the regular season, according to STATS LLC. The other? Virgil Trucks, who won Game 2 of the 1945 World Series for the Tigers against the Cubs. STATS said 14 relievers have done it. Carpenter missed most of the season, making his debut on Sept. 21 after surgery to cure numbness on his right side. He made only three starts in the regular season, going 0-2. … Home umpire Jim Joyce, who missed a call at first base in Game 3, was booed during Thursday’s pregame introductions.
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich
More Related Stories
- Cannes: Directing 101 with James Franco
- Welcome to the jungle: The definitive oral history of '80s metal
- Burt Bacharach opens up on daughter's suicide
- Steven Spielberg to produce "Halo" television series
- Amazon set to launch fine-art gallery
- Twitter torches Dan Brown's "Inferno"
- Brad Pitt keeps breaking his silence on how boring marriage to Jennifer Aniston was
- Lars von Trier's "Nymphomaniac" to use porn star body doubles
- New Beyoncé single leaked
- The sweet, sure to be short-lived "The Goodwin Games"
- Damon Lindelof admits barely-clothed scene in "Star Trek" was "gratuitous"
- Justin Timberlake: I'm a mediocre folk singer!
- Ray Manzarek, founding member of The Doors, dies at 74
- Beware of book blurbs
- Did a Salon excerpt ruin Penn Jillette's chance to win "Celebrity Apprentice"?
- Zach Galifianakis to take formerly homeless woman to "Hangover 3" premiere
- Seth MacFarlane will not host Oscars again
- "SNL's" uncomfortable Garner/Affleck moment
- "Celebrity Apprentice" finale ratings hit a new low
- Worst National Anthem fails
- The truth in Kanye's anti-prison rap
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11