By the ninth inning this afternoon, Jayson Werth had not contributed much to the Nationals’ impending 6-3 win over the Pirates. He went 0 for 5 with a strikeout at the plate and had not much of an impact to make an impact in right field. With one out in the ninth, that changed.
Andrew McCutcheon stood on third, Jose Tabata at the plate. Tabata lofted a fly ball to right, pushing Werth back a couple steps. McCutcheon, despite his team being down three runs, tagged up and bolted home when the ball fell into Werth’s glove.
Werth fired a laser to home plate, one of the few chances he’s had this season to display his powerful throwing arm, powerful enough to make it a close play at home even with McCutheon, one of baseball’s fastest players, running.
As McCutcheon slid home, Ivan Rodriguez made a quick, sweeping tag. It was close – not even Rodriguez knew for sure if McCutheon was out or safe – but home plate umpire Kerwin Danley pumped his fist: out.
For the first time since baseball returned to Washington, the Nationals had recorded the final out of a road game at home plate. As Werth ran off the field, he exchanged a leaping high five with center fielder Rick Ankiel and smiled as he lined up and shook hands with teammates.
“That’s what I told him after the game – ‘That’s why you keep playing,’ ” Riggleman said. “He played the whole game through. He didn’t get any hits, but he made the final play of the game to send us home with a win.”
Afterward, the Pirates defending McCutcheon’s decision, saying it set an aggressive tone for their team. It seems to me the play was pretty much indefensible – the two hitters in the hole and on deck would have to score for his run to mean anything, rendering his run virtually meaningless.
McCutheon probably ran trying to pick up Tabata a cheap RBI, which is not something to be totally dismissed. Players will do that when they assume there’s little to no chance of getting thrown. Really, the fact that he ran and Werth still threw him out shows the kind of arm Werth possesses. He needed to make a perfect throw, and he did.