In June, more than a month before he would return to the majors with another scar in his left wrist, Jayson Werth ordered a shipment of bats that weighed an ounce and a half less than what he had used in recent seasons. He knew the strength in his wrist would not be the same, and he thought the lighter bat would feel better. He had used the same model in 2007, when he returned from the wrist surgery that saved his career.
“I just know my old bat, it just doesn’t feel right,” Werth said. “The bat I’m using is the same bat I used from the first injury. It feels good, so I’m going to stick with it.”
Werth is not sure if the difference in weight could account for a few balls slamming into the wall instead of creeping over it for home runs. “You’d probably need to ask a physicist or something,” Werth said. But he had not hit a homer since coming back from the broken wrist, which changed Thursday as the Nationals drilled the Cardinals, 8-1. Werth clobbered a no-doubter off the back wall of the visitors’ bullpen, which put the Nationals ahead, 4-0.
Despite his lack of homers, Werth has still been one the Nationals’ best hitters, and maybe the best. For the season, Werth is now hitting .305/.389/.458. Since he returned on Aug. 2, his on-base percentage is over .400. He has been smoking line drives, 10 extra-base hits in 92 at-bats.
“My swing has been good since coming off the rehab,” Werth said. “It’s not always about hitting homers. I think those will come. It’s just a matter of being in good position and getting a good pitch. I don’t want to change too much right now. I just want to get on base. Hitting on top of a lineup as potent as this one, it’s all about getting on base and scoring runs.”
Johnson did not envision Werth as a leadoff hitter this season, but he has been a perfect fit as the Nationals’ have played with a full complement for the first time all year. In 10 games at the leadoff spot, Werth has gone 12 for 42 with three walks and six extra-base hits. “What a great leadoff hitter,” Johnson said.
Werth grinds pitchers no matter where he hits in the lineup, and at the top of the order it means teammates can see what pitches a starter is featuring on a given night. It also enhances the likelihood of an arduous opening inning for opposing pitchers.
“My dad has been yelling at me to stop taking pitches since I was 8 years old,” Werth said. “He just can’t get through to me.”
With Bryce Harper batting second behind Werth, the Nationals have a unique 1-2 punch. They’re both bigger power hitters than your typical top-of-the-order tandem, but they don’t sacrifice much ability to reach base.
“I like it, especially with the guys hitting behind us,” Werth said. “Three, four, five, six, seven, really, is no day at the beach. You get through us, and then you got Zim, LaRoche, Mikey, Desi and Espi. That’s tough. It just brings a different dynamic. Your 1-2 guys aren’t your prototypical 1-2 guys. They’re more middle-of-the-order type guys.”
Werth’s hot streak hasn’t given him total assurance about his wrist. Nothing will. There is too much history there. A rare and misdiagnosed ligament tear nearly derailed his career eight years ago. He still thinks about the wrist at times on the field.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever be at that point,” Werth said. “Three surgeries later and a pretty bad break, it’ll probably always be on my mind at some point. I feel confident about where I’m at and my ability to play the game, for sure.”
FROM TODAY’S POST
Bryce Harper shines again with a home run, Jayson Werth adds one, too, and the Nationals romp the St. Louis Cardinals, 8-1.
Bryce Harper’s temper and talent battle for the upper hand, writes Tom Boswell.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 2, Charlotte 0: John Lannan fired a complete game, giving up no runs, eight hits, striking out 10 and walking no batters. He has thrown two straight complete-game shutouts, allowed 11 hits, no runs, walked one and struck out 12 batters. Corey Brown and Jarrett Hoffpauir each drove in a run.
Richmond 5, Harrisburg 4: Starter Brian Broderick allowed three runs, two earned over six innings. On rehab, Jhonatan Solano went 2 for 4.
Carolina 3, Potomac 1: Steven Souza, Jr. went 2 for 2 and Rick Hague added a double. Starter Robert Gilliam allowed three runs, two earned, on seven hits over seven innings.
Greensboro 12, Hagerstown 2: Leadoff hitter Billy Burns went 3 for 4 and is hitting .325 in 111 games here. Justin Miller drove in both runs with a double.
Mahoning Valley 8, Auburn 6: Estarlin Martinez went 3 for 5 and is hitting .321. Wander Ramos went 1 for 3 with two RBI. Wes Schill went 2 for 5. Michael Boyden (Maryland) threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings.