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Nationals’ Jayson Werth to miss fifth straight game with shoulder injury

Jayson Werth hasn’t played in almost a week. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

With the National League East title clinched, the Nationals’ focus shifts to other matters over the final 19 games of the regular season. One of those is ensuring Jayson Werth is prepared for the postseason.

When Werth returned Aug. 28 from an almost three-month stint on the disabled list, he and the club were confident he would have enough games to find his rhythm. But Werth hasn’t played since last Wednesday because of a sore left shoulder. He was kept out of Washington’s four-game series against the Phillies as a precaution, and the plan was for him to return Tuesday after the team’s off-day and test it out. The hope was he could then take the field against the Braves.

But the test didn’t go well enough for the 38-year-old Werth to declare himself ready. He’ll miss his fifth straight game because of the shoulder injury as Washington opens a three-game set against Atlanta. Nationals Manager Dusty Baker said Werth is “on day-to-day.”

“It’s definitely a lot better,” Werth said, “but we want to be cautious with it at this point.”

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Werth returned from a fractured foot in style, smashing a home run in a rousing two-hit performance against the Marlins. He played again two days later on Aug. 30 and doubled. He hasn’t had a hit since. He played in six more games, going 0 for 20 with two walks over the span. He partially attributed the slump to his shoulder injury. Werth said the discomfort stems from getting hit by a pitch during his rehab assignment. He said it worsened during an 11-pitch at-bat in his first game back.

In all, Werth went 3 for 28 with two walks and six strikeouts in 31 plate appearances across his eight starts in right field between his absences. Asked when he would need to start accumulating at-bats again before his readiness for the playoffs a concern, Werth was blunt.

“Soon,” he said. “I need to play. There’s still time, but soon.”

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As for Washington’s other Opening Day corner outfielder, Bryce Harper will “hopefully step up” baseball activities soon, Baker said. Harper has played catch and indicated on his social media accounts that he has been working out. Hitting and running remain in his recovery from a significant bone bruise in his left leg he suffered slipping on first base on Aug. 12.

“What’s next is hopefully have him start hitting and see how his legs feel,” Baker said. “Because running and sliding and dodging is going to be the thing. He’s progressing. I got my trainers let me know when he’s really progressing. You don’t want to force him to progress because that leads to regression. Maybe those five days off [before the playoffs] is meant to be, which to help him get five days possibly closer to being ready.”

BRAVES (64-78)
Ender Inciarte CF
Ozzie Albies 2B
Freddie Freeman 1B
Matt Kemp LF
Nick Markakis RF
Kurt Suzuki C
Johan Camargo 3B
Dansby Swanson SS
Julio Teheran RHP

Trea Turner SS
Howie Kendrick RF
Daniel Murphy 2B
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Anthony Rendon 3B
Adam Lind LF
Michael A. Taylor CF
Matt Wieters C
Gio Gonzalez LHP

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Five things that still matter as the Nationals finish up September