Shortly after it became even more apparent how valuable Jayson Werth has been to the Nationals, they lost him for one of their most important games.
Major League Baseball named Werth the National League player of the month for July, the first such honor of his 12-year career. In the best month of his Nationals’ tenure, Werth led the NL in OPS (1.072), RBI (22) and homers (seven). No Nationals player had won a player of the month award since the franchise moved to Washington in 2005.
But the Nationals will be without Werth tonight as he continues to fight a groin injury he suffered Saturday night in Milwaukee. Manager Davey Johnson originally put Werth in tonight’s lineup, playing right field and batting cleanup. “If he can go, I need him in there,” Johnson said before the Nationals took the field to stretch.
Werth tested his groin, jogging and trying to loosen up. As the Nationals began batting practice, Werth walked into the clubhouse with trainer Lee Kuntz. He also had swelling in his right hand after absorbing a Kyle Lohse fastball to the knuckles Sunday, but only the groin injury held him out.
“He can’t run,” Johnson said. “He said it’s worse today than it was yesterday.”
Johnson originally wanted to sit Werth for Sunday’s game in order to ensure he could face Braves left-hander Mike Minor. Werth talked his way into the lineup and went 2 for 3 with a pair of bloop singles.
But what Johnson feared would happen came to fruition – the Nationals will be without their hottest hitter as they face first-place Atlanta, a series that likely be their final chance to climb back into the division race, if they have a chance at all.
“He said he can maybe pinch-hit if the game is on the line or something,” Johnson said.
Werth’s injury comes at the wrong time for him and the Nationals. He is hitting .400 since July 1 and for the season he has a 146 OPS+, which would be the highest mark for any one season of his career.
Johnson had planned to rest center fielder Denard Span against Minor. Even with Werth out, Johnson left Span on the bench. Scott Hairston shifted from left field to right and Steve Lombardozzi was inserted into the lineup as the left fielder.
Given the defensive downgrade from Span to Lombardozzi, ,it says a lot about Johnson’s confidence in Span against left-handers that he would choose Lombardozzi to play for Werth. This season, Span has hit .151/.211/.179 against left-handed pitchers.
Johnson moved catcher Wilson Ramos to cleanup. Ramos has hit a homer once every 18 at-bats this season.
1. Bryce Harper, CF
2. Ian Desmond, SS
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Wilson Ramos, C
5. Adam LaRoche, 1B
6. Anthony Rendon, 2B
7. Steve Lombardozzi, LF
8. Scott Hairston, RF
9. Stephen Strasburg, SP
1. Jason Heyward, RF
2. Justin Upton, LF
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. Brian McCann, C
5. Chris Johnson, 3B
6. Dan Uggla, 2B
7. B.J. Upton, CF
8. Andrelton Simmons, SS
9. Mike Minor, SP