Jayson Werth

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Jayson Werth inducted into Nats' Ring of Honor

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Jayson Werth inducted into Nats' Ring of Honor

Former Nationals outfielder and fan favorite Jayson Werth was honored Saturday night in between the team's doubleheader with the Chicago Cubs. 

The 39-year-old, who played for seven seasons in the District, was inducted into the esteemed Ring of Honor inside Nationals Park

During the presentation hosted by MASN's Dan Kolko, the organization honored Werth by playing a video tribute of his top moments on the field. 

Included in the video was a highlight of what is arguably the greatest moment in Nationals franchise history: Werth's 2012 Game 4 walk-off home run in the NLDS that beat the St. Louis Cardinals. 

Following a brief speech from general manager Mike Rizzo, a tribute video played with former teammates of Werth's sharing a few words. 

Then, in typical Jayson Werth fashion, he took the podium to share his own words with the fans. 

After shouting out former manager Dusty Baker, the late Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Bryce Harper and a number of others, his drop-the-mic moment went something like this: "In the words of my good friend, Max Scherzer: See you on the other side."

To wrap things up, Werth threw the ceremonial first pitch to his son, Jackson Werth. 

The Springfield, Ill. native was selected by the Baltimore Orioles as a first-round draft pick in 1997. Before being shipped to Toronto, Werth played in the minors for Bowie and Frederick. Prior to his time in D.C., he played two seasons in Toronto and Los Angeles, and four in Philadelphia. 

He signed a multi-year deal with the Nationals in 2011 and went on to help the club win four division titles over seven seasons (2012, 2014, 2016 & 2017). In 808 games, Werth tallied 781 hits, 109 home runs and 393 RBIs. 

Werth won the 2008 World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies defeating the Tampa Bay Rays four games to one. 

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Nats third base coach on sixth-inning send of Werth: 'You feel like it might have cost us'

Nats third base coach on sixth-inning send of Werth: 'You feel like it might have cost us'

Trying to reduce the game that ultimately sunk the 2016 Nationals to one moment is an impossible task. This affair was too much of a thrilling, beautiful mess that oversimplification doesn't do it justice.

Between all the unconventional managerial moves, the hour-plus seventh inning, the unlikely appearance of Clayton Kershaw, Game 5 of the NL Division series between the Nats and L.A. Dodgers will go down as a classic that will take days — if not weeks — to unpack.

But in a contest that had so many twists and turns, there will be some who still won't be able to get past what Bob Henley did in the sixth inning.  

With the Nats up 1-0 and two out, their third base coach opted to send Jayson Werth toward the plate on a two-out double down the left field line from Ryan Zimmerman. The problem? Werth was trying to score from first, and Dodgers left fielder Andrew Toles got the relay throw in time to shortstop Corey Seager.

Werth was thrown out at the plate — and it wasn't even close. Catcher Yasmani Grandal caught Seager's relay while Werth was around 30 feet away, and waited to put the tag on him.  

“Does it hurt? Sure, it hurts,” Henley said in a hushed tone afterward. “Anytime it doesn’t work out and you feel like it might have cost us.”

The play ended the inning, denying Washington a desperately-needed insurance run in a game that ended in a 4-3 loss.

“I know [Werth]’s not an above-average runner, I understand that,” Henley said. “But we’ve been aggressive all year as a club, and I took a shot at it.”

“He's aggressive and there's two outs,” added manager Dusty Baker. “And with the hitters we had coming up after, he feels terrible about that because it didn't work. But Toles got to the ball very quickly, got rid of it, and you know, did what he was supposed to do, hit the cut-off man.”

Indeed, Henley’s aggressiveness is well known in the clubhouse. He’s affectionately known as “Sendley” to players, and they’ve been seen wearing shirts that honor his mentality: “Send ‘em one, send ‘em all, send ‘em short, send ‘em tall.”  

That mindset puts pressure on defenders to force them into making the perfect throw, which doesn’t always happen. On Thursday night, it did, and it cost the Nats dearly.

“We’ve been aggressive ever since I’ve been here on that play,” said Werth. “You live and die by those moments sometimes.”

The move was criticized instantaneously as many took to social media to voice their frustration about the risky call.

As Baker mentioned after the game, the blunder was not the sole reason the Nats are going home early. They were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position in Game 5. They struck out 12 times. They couldn't drive runners in from third base with less than two out. And most of all, the four-run frame they yielded in the seventh inning proved to be too much to overcome.  

But the image of Werth being cut down at home could come to symbolize what this night, this series and this brief playoff run was — a missed opportunity.

“Heartbroken," Henley said. "I’m heartbroken. Our goal was to win it all. We’re a tight-knit bunch. We gave it all that we had. I’m just so proud of the guys and everyone. Just heartbroken.”

MORE: BULLPEN, BASERUNNING COST NATS IN SEASON-ENDING LOSS TO DODGERS

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Nats weigh home field advantage against staying healthy as playoffs near

Nats weigh home field advantage against staying healthy as playoffs near

Though they’re still fighting for home field advantage in next week’s division series, the Nationals understand they’re in a strange part of their season.  

Sure, playoff seeding is plenty important. These last regular season games count, et cetera et cetera. But Washington already clinched the NL East title, and already knows its playoff opponent is going to be the Los Angeles Dodgers. So it’s not a surprise that players are willing to admit how difficult it can be to keep their foot on the gas pedal these days.

“Once you win the division, there’s that exhale, that sigh of relief,” said Jayson Werth after Friday night’s 7-4 loss to the Miami Marlins.”..You kind of let off the throttle a little bit.”

And when a team takes that approach, health becomes the top priority. It’s a mindset that was on full display Friday night when Werth was removed from the game in the seventh inning as a precaution due to back and side tightness.

 “We can't afford to lose anybody else,” manager Dusty Baker said. “So we decided that, it was wet, on the chilly side, and I decided I couldn't take a chance on him being injured too.”

Werth said that team trainers ruled out a strain or a pull, and that he’d be surprised if he wasn’t in the lineup on Saturday afternoon.  

Still, any injury the Nats suffer this time of the year feels magnified, especially given the last week: Bryce Harper jammed his left thumb, Wilson Ramos tore his ACL and Daniel Murphy was shut down until the playoffs with a glute strain. Not to mention that Stephen Strasburg will likely miss the club’s entire October run.

“The biggest thing is right now is to get everybody healthy for the postseason,” Stephen Drew said. “I think that's key. We got some guys out and hopefully we'll be ready for the playoffs.”

So while every team says it’d like to head into the postseason firing on all cylinders, the Nats’ case shows that it’s not always realistic. Bottling up momentum and carrying into the biggest games of the year is the ideal, of course. But sometimes heading into the tournament with all your horses in tact works too — seeding be damned.

“Obviously home field advantage is important to us, and we want that,” Werth said. “But at the same time, we also feel like we’ve done our job a little bit. So there’s a balance there.....you don’t want to do something where you can put yourself in jeopardy, where you can really get hurt.”