Jayson Werth may be a grizzled 14-year veteran in the big leagues, but that doesn't mean he still doesn't revel in playing hero whenever the situation calls for it.
With the Nationals down 4-3 to the Philadelphia Phillies, his old club, the 37-year-old left fielder got to live out the scenario every young ballplayer dreams of: Bottom of the ninth inning, bases loaded, two outs and a packed Nats Park crowd of 34,294 anxiously hoping for the big hit.
"You live for those moments," he said. "[Growing] up playing whiffle ball in the back yard, you always run through those situations."
And as has been the case numerous times in his tenure with the Nats, Werth came through. He pounced on a 2-2 fastball from Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez, lining it up the middle for a two-run walk-off single to clinch a 5-4 victory, prompting thunderous cheers from the D.C. faithful — and drawing nearly all of the Nats dugout to chase him deep into right field for a celebratory mobbing.
"It was fun," Danny Espinosa said of the postgame scene. "Takes a while to get out there, ran a good distance, but it was great seeing [Werth] come through right there."
The win bailed out Jonathan Papelbon, who looked like he was going to be the game's goat after allowing a go-ahead solo home run to Maikel Franco in the top of the frame. But the Nats had a chance to redeem their beleaguered closer thanks to singles from Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa followed by a Clint Robinson walk. From there, it was a matter of hoping a typically clutch hitter lived up to his reputation one more time.
"Jayson, no matter what he’s doing or how he’s playing, he’s been a clutch man all these years," Dusty Baker said. "And clutch men know how to come through. And clutch men love to be in that situation."
"[We have] a lot of confidence [in Werth]," Espinosa added. "He's been there in the playoffs. He's been there, he's got like 13 years in the big leagues, he's been there a lot. It was a professional at-bat right there."
The victory also capped off the Nats' second consecutive sweep of the division rival Phillies, and put Washington at a season-high 15 games over .500 with a 39-24 record — tied for second-best in the majors.
For Werth's part, the game-ending knock serves as a reminder that perhaps the reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. Since May 30, he's hitting .306/.375/.639 with three home runs and 11 RBIs, and he's already closing in on his 2015 totals for most offensive categories.
And unlike last season, he's managed to stay healthy, showing that he can still add value to his team — even in the latter part of that seven-year, $126 million contract.
"I want to win," Werth said. "I want to help my teammates win and be a part of a championship team. Whatever I can do.”