“It seems like the better I feel, the more aggressive I am,” Werth said. “The last couple weeks, I’ve felt pretty aggressive. I’ve also felt pretty good out there.”
Several performances set up, and then sealed, Werth’s game-winning single. John Lannan allowed one run in six-plus innings before a seventh-inning Rockies rally spoiled his shot at the win. Jonny Gomes crushed his first home run as a National, a two-run blow off Rockies starter Aaron Cook that served as the Nationals’ only offense before Werth struck in the eighth. Todd Coffey rebounded from recent struggles to pitch a scoreless eighth.
Perhaps most impressive, Drew Storen retired the heart of Colorado’s lineup in order in the ninth, closing with a strikeout of Troy Tulowitzki for his for his 29th save. Storen began Tulowitzki with a slider, worried that he may “ambush” a fastball and tie the score with one swing. He got ahead 0-2, and Tulowitzki fouled off two pitches and took a ball.
Storen fired his final pitch, a 96-mph fastball on the outside corner, right at knees. Tulowitzki watched it for strike three. (“Filthy,” Manager Davey Johnson said.) As Tulowitzki turned to talk to the home plate umpire, Storen pumped his fist, an uncommon show of emotion for him.
“It’s Tulo,” Storen said. “He’s an unbelievable hitter. It was just a battle. That was one of the most fun at-bats of the whole year. He’s an unbelievable hitter. I wanted to throw that pitch, and I got lucky and executed it. Because if I miss with that pitch at all, he hits it out. That’s what I live for right there.”
But the most pivotal moment, the one that allowed the Nationals to enjoy their flight to Chicago, came in the eighth inning. Danny Espinosa roped a leadoff double over left fielder Eric Young Jr.’s head. He moved to third on Ryan Zimmerman’s groundout, and Rockies reliever Matt Belisle intentionally walked Michael Morse to bring Werth to the plate.
Belisle threw Werth four consecutive fastballs. Werth fouled two off, swung at one and missed, and took another for a ball. He felt late on Belisle’s fastball, which hummed at 92 and 93 mph. He considered starting his swing earlier, but instead trusted himself to foul away another fastball if need be.
“After he threw the heater up, I made the decision I wasn’t going to change,” Werth said. “If I speed up to hit the heater, I’m probably susceptible to the slider. It was a stand-pat situation. I felt that was best chance.”