“Two years later…” said Werth, offering one of his rare wolfish grins.
“To see that was the coolest moment I’ve ever been part of on a baseball field,” said Ryan Zimmerman, forgetting all his own walk-off homers on random summer games which, frankly, meant next to nothing in the baseball scheme of things, but had to serve their purpose hereabouts until the true thing arrived. That walk-off the night they opened this $620-million ballpark? Zimmerman had forgotten it.
“I’m so happy for Jayson, for him to have this moment after some of the stuff he went through last year,” said Zimmerman. “He is not a very interactive person with the fans. That’s not a bad thing. But for a fan, that makes it hard to be a fan of him. They don’t get to see all the things he does in here for our team. Now they can see. This is one of the reasons we got this guy.”
For reference, this was Werth’s 14th post-season home run. On Wednesday night, Werth watched as his old Phillies teammate and friend Raul Ibanez hit a ninth-inning game-tying home run, then a walk-off home run, to lead the Yankees over the Orioles. “Baseball this time of year is the best time in sports,” said Werth. “I watched all the games. I probably texted him 20 times.”
In his first moments in the Nats clubhouse after the game, with the sound system booming, Werth retreated to a corner, got out his phone, looked at it and laughed. It was Ibanez, texting to him, over and over.
Where does this homer stand among Werth’s post-season memories? Meaningful silence. He and Phils fans don’t get along so well any more, since some of them cheered and yelled, “You deserve it” after he broke his wrist trying to make a sliding outfield catch this season.
“I can’t remember any other ones,” Werth said.
What the last two days on South Capital Street demonstrated was that, while the Nats nerves weren’t quite ready for the biggest stage on Wednesday, their fans have been officially playoff-ready since the first usher let the first patron with a playoff ticket through the turnstiles. Perhaps roars for favorite players and jet flyovers could be expected on Wednesday. But Game 4 was the first in Nats Park history in which every pitch was watched with the passionate intensity that actually brings the sport to life and gives it an ebbing or swelling flow of unremitting tension.
Perhaps two dozen times the crowd burst into loud park-wide boos for an umpire’s apparently innocuous call of “ball” or “strike,” when it merely changed the count in favor of batter or pitcher. As recently as a year ago, some entire games might not get that much reaction. The expression “into every pitch,” which is the very heart of baseball, now has meaning in D.C.
“These guys are all geared up,” said Manager Davey Johnson. “So it’s going to be fun [Friday] night.”
If the Nationals use this excitement to find energy, while keeping the focus born of desperation that drove them throughout this game, then Friday night may bring a remarkable game. Because the Cardinals, the world champion Cardinals, will surely find that place.
Winner-take-all-games are an entirely different place than any other games in baseball. You can only learn about them by playing in them.
Now the Nationals, and a town that finally knows what a real October baseball classic feels like, get to have that experience.
If all of them, players and fans, can get themselves back down off the ceiling.
For previous columns by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/