When Jayson Werth walked to the plate in the fourth inning Saturday night, he had not produced an extra-base hit in his last 30 at-bats, including a pop to shallow right in the first, after he which he slammed his bat on the ground.
On the first pitch Pirates starter Jeff Karstens threw him, Werth unleashed perhaps the best swing he’s taken as a National. He launched a home run to left field, almost to the second deck beyond the 383-foot sign.
Earlier, at 2 p.m., Werth had joined several teammates for early batting practice and felt “probably the best” he had all season. The homer helped validate that feeling.
“We worked on that earlier today,” Werth said, cracking a smile. “We worked on hitting homers.”
In seriousness, Werth explained that the main thing that contributed to his slump — he entered the game 5 for his last 29 with no extra-base hits and no walks — was timing at the plate and his start toward the pitch. He added that the best part is that he’s diagnosed what’s keeping him from breaking out.
“I’ve been tinkering with my move to the ball,” Werth said. “My timing’s been out of sync. I’m just trying to get my swing locked in, and the technical aspect of it is sometimes hard to find. But I think we’re working in the right direction. The results usually take days.
“I feel like I know what I need to do, which sometimes, I guess, the biggest obstacle is figuring out what exactly is wrong and working in that direction. I’m not lost, so that’s good. It’s close. I feel like it’s close. It’s frustrating, because it’s not like I feel bad up there. I’m seeing the ball good, and I feel like I’m close. Hopefully the next couple days, I’ll lock it in, and go on a tear.”
Werth also had an eventually night in the field, missing a pair of balls that could have been spectacular plays in the first, and then later making two excellent plays, including one that had him crash into the wall in right.
In the first inning, Jose Tabata smoked a drive toward the right field corner. Werth read the ball perfectly and sprinted over, extending his glove at the last minute. “I ran a really good route on it,” Wetth said. “My steps were good. I was just stretched out as far as I could go, and it hit off the end of my glove.”
Three batters later, Garrett Jones drove a ball over Werth’s head. Werth paused at first – Jones had reached out and pulled an outside a pitch, a swing that wouldn’t typically produce a warning track fly ball. But it did, and after Werth froze, he couldn’t recover in time to make the catch.
“It was just a wrong read,” Werth said. “I just got fooled on it. But that happens too, sometimes. Sometimes your eyes play games with you. If I make that play, I think the inning’s a little different, so that was definitely frustrating.”
Werth later caught two balls at the wall, including one in which leaped and crashed into the wall at the moment the ball landed in his glove. When he landed, he fell to the ground before hopping up. “It’s got some pretty good padding on it,” Werth said. “I was OK.”
He also ran into the wall on another nice catch. It looked like an easier toll than the other one, but the part of the wall he collided with actually made it tougher. “The fence gives into the scoreboard,” Werth said. “The scoreboard’s pretty hard. I felt that one a little bit more than the one where I hit the ball hard. That’s part of the game. That’s why you love it.”