But the good feelings from Werth’s breakout dissolved suddenly in the 11th inning, when the Astros used three soft singles, the last one by pinch-hitter Jason Michaels, to form a game-winning rally against Nationals reliever Todd Coffey.
The bitter ending gave the Astros, the team with baseball’s worst record at 33-65, the series victory over the Nationals, who dropped to two games below .500. They came here hoping to get well after a brutal loss Sunday in Atlanta. Instead, they lost two more one-run games against the Astros, who hadn’t won a home series since May 25. The Nationals expected better.
“For sure,” said reliever Tyler Clippard, who escaped from a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth. “We needed to win the series after the tough loss in Atlanta. But you know what, they played us really strongly. We weren’t good enough today.”
Livan Hernandez allowed two runs in six innings, and, as the Nationals got no hits from the seventh through the 10th, Manager Davey Johnson cycled through three relievers who kept the score tied at 2 until he summoned Coffey for the 11th inning. In a 7-6 loss Tuesday, Coffey had allowed the Astros to tack on the run that prevented the Nationals from tying the game.
Wednesday, he had another chance. Humberto Quinerto led off with a bloop single to right. With one out, Michael Bourn hit a slow roller that sneaked past Coffey and into center field. Up came Michaels. Coffey threw him an 0-1 slider down and away, hoping for either a groundball to second base or a swing-and-miss. Coffey executed the pitch how he wanted.
“From my perspective out there, I thought it was a good pitch,” Coffey said. “But honestly, any pitch that gets a hit is a bad pitch.”
Michaels flared it into center field. The Astros celebrated at home plate as Coffey walked slowly off the field. “That’s two nights in a row that I really let the team down,” he said. “It falls on my shoulders. Nobody feels as bad as I do. It fell on me tonight, and I dropped the ball for us.”
Werth gave the Nationals a chance to take the lead in the top of the 11th, when he smoked a double to center off reliever Wilton Lopez. Though he was stranded, it gave him his first game with three extra-base hits as a National.
The Nationals envisioned these kinds of games out of Werth when they handed him a seven-year, $126 million contract in December. Werth and several teammates insisted his mere presence had helped the Nationals, but he has been a disappointment with a bat in his hand.