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Carrying the load, and comfortable doing it

Apr 13, 2011, 4:00 AM EDT

Associated Press photo
Jayson Werth homered and doubled in his first game against his former team.

The Nationals signed Jayson Werth over the winter and asked the $126 million right fielder not to carry this team on his shoulders but to share the load with the franchise’s other core players, most notably Ryan Zimmerman.

Well, with Zimmerman on the disabled list for at least the next two weeks, the load most definitely is being handed over to Werth. A club that has struggled to score runs in bunches so far this season must be able to count on its richest player to produce when it counts.

So the fact Werth delivered tonight — homering, doubling, scoring twice and drawing a walk to lead the Nationals to a 7-4 victory — can’t be understated. That he happened it do it in his first game against his former Phillies teammates was merely icing on the cake.

“That’s not easy,” second baseman Danny Espinosa said, “to go against your old team and have the great night he had.”

No, but Werth sure made it look easy. You’d never know he entered this game in an 0-for-10 mini-slump, or that he was playing in front of a surprisingly hostile crowd in his home ballpark, a product of all the Phillies fans who made the trip down I-95 and booed their former star every time he touched the ball.
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  1. Scooter - Apr 13, 2011 at 5:50 AM

    One of baseball's beautiful moments is Jayson Werth turning on a high inside fastball, ripping it into the left-field seats. Several times last year, I'd rewind over and over just to marvel at one of his homers. (Yes, even a few against our Nats.)Of course, tonight's was a low fastball. That looked pretty nice too.

  2. Big Cat - Apr 13, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    Double steals…..a safety squeeze that worked? Is that Riggleman behind those moves or is someone else in charge. Is Eckstein whispering in Sad Man's ear. What gives man?

  3. Anonymous - Apr 13, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    In Sad Man we trust!

  4. Souldrumer - Apr 13, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    Mark, what a wonderful gamer. I really enjoyed how you seemed to capture the fight that this team showed and how Werth so magnificently rose to the occasion. Really enjoying reading you after big wins like this. @Scooter. Yep. Werth can be all kinds of fund when he's flashing that line drive power.

  5. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 13, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    I prefer to call him "Stoic Man". His enthusiasm is buried under layer after layer of calm. But he knows baseball and finally has a team of dedicated and highly professional ballplayers who can police each other and fit into their roles enthusiastically.Play'em one out at a time and let the chips fall where they may.

  6. JayB - Apr 13, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    I agree with Njack to some extent….The players are the big difference…..and the Spring Training work…..Everyone of these pitchers can BUNT…that is such a change…They take pride in in it now and that is hard work that Riggs and staff should get credit form…Porter has done a outstanding job pushing the base running approach……That is hard work too…..Rick A is just a joy to see roam CF…..he has a gun for an arm and hits cut off men……Riggs as manager….OK, not great and in my view still is an over all negative.

  7. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me - Apr 13, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    I'm with NatsJack. Riggs managed a helluva game Tuesday and Sunday in the finale of the Mets series. I know Mr. DoubleSwitch is a favorite of the naysayers here. But Riggs is doing a great job with less than a full roster of players right now. Lay off the guy. When he takes out Morse after two home runs, the criticism is OK. But Riggs gets an A-minus for managing so far this year.

  8. Big Cat - Apr 13, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    Maybe it will rain for two more days. Then we can cuss the Phillies. "Take that you s.o.b.'s…..and don't come down here again!""And take Halladay and Lee with ya!!"

  9. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 13, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    The perfect scenario would be for the game to start and Halliday has to throw 2 innings before a monsoon sets in, thereby washing out the game and expending Halliday (yes, Lannan too but who looses in that exchange?)so we miss him all together. Then we get Lee as his back starts to stiffen up, shell him out in 4 innings and walk away with a 2 game sweep of the Phillies.

  10. dale - Apr 13, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    Riggleman is trusting his intuition and that is paying off. (Putting in Clippard for the final out of the seventh is a prime example.) The double switches have all been purposeful, with the aim of getting an at bat by a hitter in the approaching pitcher's spot.Letting Espinosa find his niche at the seventh position has had good results. I agree with JayB that Ankiel has played a major league level center field position. So far the bunting this year has been light years ahead of all previous results. The biggest difference between April '11 and April '10 has been the effectiveness of Lannan and Marquis. Getting to .500 in this division (at least for one day) is a worthy achievement. Except for the one eleven run meltdown all the games have been competitive and the play has been crisp and inspiring.

  11. Anonymous8 - Apr 13, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    Wilson Ramos has been huge! If Morse can get back to being consistently good, the MIA Zim's offense will be equalized.My fear is overusing the bullpen studs. Funny to see Broderick up throwing in the 6th. Was he a decoy tease or just getting in some work?

  12. oldguyjim - Apr 13, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    WINNING CURES ALL ILLS!

  13. sjm308 - Apr 13, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Another early positive is except for one sloppy game, we have really played fairly clean ball. Baserunning as well as fielding is way ahead of last year. I can't remember one double steal last year and we already have two. Porter has had a couple of muffs but we are aggressive and you have to love that. Like the fact that Livan bunted on his own(over on NJ) and that Nix was quick enough to break and so there was no real play at home. We are not a finished product but our middle infield just has to keep getting better and I think they will. Love Ankiel vs. Morgan so far and Morse and Nix look to be an improvement on Willingham in the field. If the pitching keeps up we will be a nice surprise.Go Nats!!

  14. Joe Seamhead - Apr 13, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    Hey, if they beat us, they beat us, but bring on Halliday and Lee. Best case senereo we beat them. Worst case they beat us, but whoever the Brewers throw at us should look emminately more hittable.I sure hope it was a long rainy ride back to Philly for the invaders that came to our house to boo. I can't make it tonight, but tomorrow I've got a couple more folks going with me that normally wouldn't be going. Folks that say that they don't like to go when the Phills come to town because of their fans, well, if all of us started going and bringing others with us, then we can tip the scales.I sure hope that the club starts winning consistently to make ending this crap from Philly end soon! I also hope, that like the team itself, that our fans start developing a bit of an attitude, and personality.

  15. Doc - Apr 13, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    Jus' wonderin' why Ramos, and his lethal bat was switched out for IRod, late in the game?I was thinking that Riggs maybe wanted the experienced Pudge handling the relievers.Any thoughts?

  16. MGG - Apr 13, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    This is a VERY different team from last year. I was waiting for the 8th or 9th inning melt down from our pitchers. With the bases loaded it started to get my heart thumping and then they got out of both innings with no runs. If they keep playing this clean and get healthy I see this team potentially breaking .500We may also attract some real big name free agents next off season and then next year this team will look even more different then this year.

  17. carolync - Apr 13, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    Much credit goes to Livo. When he set down the Phillies in the first inning,I just knew everything would be OK. That bunt was awesome. No disgrace in giving up a solo homer to one of the NL's best sluggers. Love Ramos and Espinosa. Both will be in the running for ROY. Overall hitting is still troubling and the defense was sloppy at times. They were lucky that the botched double plays were not more damaging.Desmond was dreadful again as the lead-off hitter. How many chances does this guy get?Crowd was very disappointing.Go Nats!

  18. Knoxville Nat - Apr 13, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    Doc,I believe bringing in Pudge late in the game was a double switch move since Ramos had made either the last out or next to last out in the previous inning. If I recall correctly the pitcher's spot was due up second in the lineup in our next at bat.

  19. fpcsteve - Apr 13, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    @ NatsJack: Who do you like leading off and why? I wonder if Desmond is suited for that spot. It seems to me that it is still way early, and the Nats have a chance to arrange and rearrange the batting order and clarify roles. What do you think?

  20. NatsNut - Apr 13, 2011 at 1:18 PM

    That was SUCH a good game last night. One of the first things I check nowadays on the box scores is the E column and it's looking much, much better these days.

  21. Richard - Apr 13, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    Livo. What can you say? I remember when the Nats acquired Livo in 2009 and he pitched well in September of that year, really one of the few Nats pitchers who did. At the time some enemy blogger on another site (Nats Insider didn't exist yet) ridiculed the acquistion, scoffing that Livo was over the hill, a garage acquisition, etc.. Boy, was that wrong! To his great credit, Rizzo had/has a different opinion of Livo … I hope Rizzo continues to let the results on the field dictate Livo's future with the Nats.

  22. Bill - Apr 13, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    At least twice, Espinosa messed up the front end of potential plays because he appeared to be rushing it. Not sure what is going on there, since he has previously had such soft hands. Stuff like that can get into someone's head.Desmond clearly is pressing. He may just need some reassurance. A timely hit last night could have sealed the deal and given the Clippard/Burnett duo a rest with what would have been an 8-1 lead.Still, a nice win. The crowd was poor but given the weather totally understandable. The Philly people had bought their tickets in advance, so of course they were going to show. Thursday looks like it will be the nicest day of the three and I am planning to be there.

  23. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 13, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    fpcsteve…. I'm all for Espinosa in the lead off spot. I've always been a fan of having a switch hitter in that spot. Desmond can bat second or 7th depending on the starter that day. And once Zim gets healthy Riggleman will have all kinds of options but Espinosa in the leadoff spot should remain.

  24. Anonymous - Apr 13, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    Livan was living on the edge. He was the recipient of a Glavine-esque strike zone: http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/cache/location.php-pitchSel=115817&game=gid_2011_04_12_phimlb_wasmlb_1&batterX=0&innings=yyyyyyyyy&sp_type=1&s_type=1.gif

  25. N. Cognito - Apr 13, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    With his approach at the plate, Desmond will never hit. He tried to pull everything last year, too. The pitchers have caught on. He doesn't appear to be adjusting.He is headed for a very short MLB career.

  26. Tedv15 2 - Apr 13, 2011 at 1:50 PM

    NatsJack @ 7:15 you got it right.Jim has a team of professionals now. Lets see how it plays out.Good call NatsJack.

  27. JD - Apr 13, 2011 at 1:52 PM

    NatsJack, Desmond is just not suited for the lead off spot at all; he is too aggressive by nature; he won't work the count and he won't get on base via walk; for that matter he is also a poor fit to hit 2nd. I think 7th sounds about right. I would try Espinosa at Lead off but I think that the jury is still out as to whether he can maintain a high enough OBP. As far as Riggleman is concerned; he has had a very good week where most of the in game decisions have been solid and have worked. I would like to see him go with the starters a bit longer when they are effective and I am very concerned about Clippard overuse. Finally; I like the positivity and the optimism of the thread but let's keep some perspective; last year's team went 20 – 15 before finishing 69 – 93. Having said that I feel much better about our starting pitchers this year game in game out.

  28. fpcsteve - Apr 13, 2011 at 2:09 PM

    N. Cognito,I'm not sure about a short career, but because of Espimosa I think Desmond's stay in DC will be short. I can see him being part of a significant trade package. They won't deal him just to get rid of him, but he has enough talent for someone to think they can change him and have him become a difference-maker. The change part is where my doubts come in. Desmond looks like the kind of guy who is going to do things his way no matter what. It will be interesting to see what happens with him around July 31 or this offseason. What do you think?

  29. Peyton Dowdy - Apr 13, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    Anybody else noticed how many more batters the pitching staff is striking out this year? The team as a whole is averaging just over 7 K/9 thus far this year. They also aren't walking as many people as they used to. The teams BB/9 is roughly 3. A K/BB ratio of more than 2/1 for the entire team is pretty solid I think.The starters are doing a pretty solid job with their ratios so far. They were almost at the bottom of the league if not in last place last season and that was including Strasburg's ridiculous rate. This year they are sitting at 6.6 K/9 and a 2.6 BB/9 ratio. The most impressive part is Zimmerman has the lowest K rate of the rotation and he is the only true strikeout pitcher of the group.Go nats!

  30. DFL - Apr 13, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    Desmond should remain a Nat. He's a lifelong Nat, plays hard, and bleeds red. The Nats should develop an esprit d'corps the way the Flyers do in hockey. Build loyalty and tradition like the old Packers.

  31. Will - Apr 13, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    I wonder how long it is before Riggs realizes that perhaps a guy with a career walk rate of 4.8% probably won't cut it as the lead off guy. Imagine what it would be like for there to be runners on when Werth and Zimm hit all their HRs…It's especially frustrating when we have a guy batting 7th, who's currently walking in 20% of his plate appearances. That's unsustainable, but Espinosa is a much better batter and fit in the lead off spot.

  32. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 13, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    fpcsteve… I agree on your Desmond take…. He would be part of any significant trade we make although the trading partners are going be clammering for Espinosa over Desmond in every dialogue.It would probably take Desmond, a couple of significant arms and Flores to pry away someone like Reyes from the Mets but it could happen.

  33. Knoxville Nat - Apr 13, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    JD,I agree with you in wishing Riggleman would stay with the starters longer but on the flip side the starters have to earn that. Last night I thought Jim made the right call to pull Livo when he did but in most cases with our starters they have to show that unlike last year or prior years, they can go deeper into the game without losing effectiveness. I would suggest that the history of our starting pitching is that they are mainly 6-7 inning pitchers at best. I'm one of those people who say pull the starter too soon instead of too late and trust the BP to do their job.As for over use of the BP that is a concern. Last night I was a bit surprised when Clippard came out to pitch the 8th because he seemed to have sat for a long time in the bottom of the 7th when the Nats scored again. With a 6-1 lead at the time I was thinking Coffey or someone other than Clip, Storen and Brunett would be on to pitch hopefully the last two innings. With the way Clippard seemed to lose his control that inning maybe the waiting was too long and too cold for him.

  34. N. Cognito - Apr 13, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    @ fpcsteve – Pitchers are feeding him nothing but stuff away and he keeps trying to pull it. He'll occasionally yank one of those for a double or homerun, but what we'll most likely see is what we saw last night – ground outs to the left side of the infield.He might bounce around a bit, even get a shot at a starting job here and there, but even if he hangs around the majors another 10 years, it will probably be as a part-time player.He shows me nothing positive.

  35. JD - Apr 13, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    NatsJack, Reyes is an intriguing thought; he is scheduled to hit the FA market this off season and if he remains healthy he will earn mega bucks and I am pretty sure the Mets won't be in play. Alderson won't lose him for nothing so there's a pretty good chance he will be in play as soon as the Mets fall off; Alderson can't give up on the season too soon because no one will show up at City field. Should we give up an attractive package for a rental when we are not ready to compete for the play offs? only if we get assurances that he will sign a long term extension with us. I do love concept of Zim, Reyes and Espinosa in our infield for 10 years. Figure something out Rizzo.

  36. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 13, 2011 at 4:03 PM

    JD…. and it takes care of the lead off problem with Espinosa batting second, both switch hitters.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 73 54 --
ATLANTA 68 61 6.0
MIAMI 64 63 9.0
NEW YORK 60 69 14.0
PHILADELPHIA 57 71 17.5
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SAT: Giants at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Giants at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
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