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Hitting, running, scouting combine to produce walk-off win

Jul 20, 2014, 7:31 PM EST

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They spend hours before each series preparing for the upcoming opponent, studying the pitchers they’ll face, going over each outfielder’s strengths and weaknesses. Oftentimes, all the preparation is for naught. But sometimes, the perfect situation presents itself to use all that advanced scouting and apply it with the game on the line.

That situation came late Sunday afternoon, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of a tie ballgame. And thanks in part not only to Jayson Werth’s bat and Anthony Rendon’s legs, but also to advance coach Mark Weidemaier’s scouting report and third base coach Bob Henley’s read of the play at hand, the Nationals were able to pull off a 5-4 victory over the Brewers that for the moment left them owning the NL’s best record.

“That’s what it’s all about, right?” said Werth, whose double down the left-field line brought home Rendon and set off a mad celebration among his teammates and the crowd of 36,373. “That’s why we do this, I think. If you find yourself in that situation and you don’t want to be there, I think you’re in the wrong line of work.”

Werth has thrived in this spot many times before, and he got himself into an advantageous situation when Milwaukee right-hander Rob Wooten fell behind in the count 3-1. With Rendon on first base and two outs in a tie game, Werth knew a simple single wouldn’t be good enough. He needed to look for a good pitch to hit, and then he needed to drive it somewhere to the outfield.

“It’s about hitting off the fastball and being ready for a pitch to hit,” he said. “Sometimes when you get in a hitter’s count, the pitcher is in trouble. So you’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities, and we were able to do that today.”

Werth got the fastball from Wooten he was looking for, 91 mph and over the inside part of the plate. He turned on it and sent the ball careening on a line into the left-field corner.

As soon as the ball landed, all eyes turned toward Rendon, who had taken off on contact and was now rounding second, and then toward left fielder Khris Davis. Davis retrieved the ball and started his throwing motion before Rendon reached third base, but Henley didn’t waver in waving him around.

That’s where the Nationals’ scouting report came into play. Weidemaier had told everyone on Friday afternoon that it was worth running on Davis. Henley knew this and thus made up his mind early during the play to send Rendon.

“I think the situation of the game dictated to be aggressive right there,” the rookie third base coach said. “Then when the ball went to the wall, and knowing that Tony can really turn it on and run the bases and is going to be going on the crack of the bat, as soon as I saw the ball go to the wall, then I knew we were going to be aggressive right there in that situation.”

Rendon put his faith in his coach.

“Once I turned,” he said, “I got to third base and the play is behind me, so I trust him.”

Werth, who at this point had rounded first and was heading for second, knew the scouting report himself and expected to see Rendon making his way toward the plate.

“We always talk about taking advantage of defenders, and that was one of the guys we knew we could maybe take an extra base on,” he said. “When I hit it, I knew Rendon was running, so I figured old ‘No Stop Sign’ Henley over there at third base, he’s just always waving guys around. So I assumed he was gonna send him. So I thought we had a chance.”

They had more than a chance. Davis’ throw missed cutoff man Jean Segura, and Rendon wound up crossing the plate standing up, greeted by Adam LaRoche with a high-five.

Back at second base, Werth was mobbed by the rest of his teammates, grateful to have pulled out a victory on a day in which plenty of things went wrong. Ryan Zimmerman committed a throwing error. Gio Gonzalez lasted only 3 1/3 innings. Bryce Harper made two outs on the bases. Rafael Soriano blew the save in the top of the ninth.

And yet, at that moment as they piled on Werth in the center of the diamond, the Nationals had improved to 53-43, tops in the NL by percentage points over the Braves, Cardinals and Giants.

“We’ve been playing good ball, doing the little things: Baserunning, defense,” Werth said. “That’s what it’s going to take. If we want to play into the end of October, we’re gonna have to continue to do that and continue to win games and pitch and hit and do all the things that it takes.”

  1. Smyrcok - Jul 20, 2014 at 7:43 PM

    What a game to be at. Wins like this bring out some good feelings, even if everything before the bottom of the ninth wasn’t perfect.

  2. Joe Seamhead - Jul 20, 2014 at 7:44 PM

    I think Anthony probably would have scored on all but a couple of leftfielders, but as the Nats coaches had a book that dictated running on Khris Davis, every other third base coach in baseball has the book that says to run on Ryan Zimmerman when he’s in LF. Davis played a fine LF until it mattered. But this is an example of a weak arm in left keeps you from winning games.

  3. David Proctor - Jul 20, 2014 at 7:51 PM

    ““When I hit it, I knew Rendon was running, so I figured old ‘No Stop Sign’ Henley over there at third base, he’s just always waving guys around. So I assumed he was gonna send him. ”

    Gold, Jayson, Gold

    • natsfan1a - Jul 20, 2014 at 8:13 PM

      That is an awesome quote.

      That was an awesome game ending to see in person.

      Plus, I had mango gelato. Life is good.

  4. Sonny G 10 - Jul 20, 2014 at 7:53 PM

    Wonderful walk-off. Everything went our way on that play. Nice way to take the series.

  5. scnatsfan - Jul 20, 2014 at 8:07 PM

    Great way to start the second half against a tough opponent

  6. knoxvillenat - Jul 20, 2014 at 8:26 PM

    “Bryce Harper made two outs on the bases.”

    True but one of those (the line drive double play) is nit picking to put on Bryce. What was he to do there?

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:09 PM

      Agreed and the pitcher was on deck and most likely a contact play called.

      • Doc - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:32 PM

        Correctomundo, Ghost!

        Can’t criticize the Kid there! Being caught off of 1B—that’s another story.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:36 PM

        Was there any discussion anywhere on why Desi pulled to his left on the game tying single by Weeks? It looked like it was hit to the spot Desi is usually at in a doubleplay situation.

        Just glad the Nats won and I will keep my list of negatives for another day.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:38 PM

        I don’t know directions, Desi pulled to his right.

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:08 PM

    The Brewers running aggressiveness finally caught up with them and possibly cost them the game with Weeks getting thrown out in the attempted double steal in the 9th with Braun in the batter’s box.

    Big differences between 1 and 2 outs with Soriano struggling.

    Thank you once again Roenicke.

    • knoxvillenat - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:19 PM

      +1, thanks Ron.

    • David Proctor - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:19 PM

      Roenicke didn’t call for the double steal and was apparently FUMING that Weeks got thrown out.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:21 PM

        David, who called for it because a double steal is usually a Managers call. Did the 3rd base coach call it on his own? Also, what Manager starts throwing people under the bus.

      • David Proctor - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:23 PM

        He gave Gomez the green light, but not Weeks. Gomez had the bag stolen easily at third, so he was pissed that Weeks went and got thrown out as the trail runner. That’s what I saw from the Brewers reporters on Twitter anyway

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:30 PM

        That explains a lot and Lobaton made one of the plays of the game throwing out the only runner he could get since Gomez had a great jump.

        The problem in the steal sign is Weeks saw the sign and went. It’s understandable. As a Manager you cover your player and turn the page.

  8. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:50 PM

    Rendon got the #3 Web Gem on ESPN.

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:53 PM

    Shelby Miller once looked like a future ace for the Cardinals and flamed out and now finds himself in their bullpen.

    Detwiler isn’t the only one in that situation.

  10. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    On Ryan’s error, it seemed as if he didnt trust himself to throw the ball? Was that the case, or did it get stuck or something?

    I was upset at first becuz I was thinking, Dang Ryan you’re hurting Gio, but then I had to think, Gio was hurting himself and was all over the place…

    • scnatsfan - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:03 PM

      Looks like he never had a handle on it

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:05 PM

        Thanks. I meant to rewatch the game after I got home but I got caught up watching Frozen with me neice…

  11. adcwonk - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:02 PM

    In response so “what the heck is Lobaton doing in there” — I responded the obvious, that he’s our backup, and lots catchers get rested on the “day after a night game”.

    And he also got a hit, scored a run, and threw out Weeks.

    Not bad for a Sunday afternoon at the park . . .

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:13 PM

      Most team’s backups resemble a player of Leon’s abilities so Lobaton is fine and does what you expect out of a backup. Yes, he could hit better and in Tampa he did. Lets hope he’s turned the corner.

  12. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:06 PM

    Damn, meatball by Kershaw…. Justify meatball….

  13. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:13 PM

    Wow, what a web gem by Kemp…. What. A. play.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:15 PM

      That was the efoort I wish the Nats saw on Friday night in RF.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:17 PM

        I was hoping that somehow some way the Nats would find a way to Kemp….

        Especially with Jayson’s decline in play in RF, but I know that ship has sailed…

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:26 PM

        Yep and I dream of Giancarlo Stanton.

        Next year Werth LF and Harper in RF or CF. Span is playing much better but not sure if they go to Souza in CF or even Michael Taylor or Nate McLouth. It’s a gamble for sure turning to a rookie. Still plenty of time.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:33 PM

        Yep, I dreamed of Stanton too…. I actually have this crazy idea that Werth will go to 1b, Ryan to LF (don’t kill me JoeS) and Bryce to RF… I don’t think Bryce is ready for CF personally….

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:45 PM

        Before you came NI, I had theorized Werth to 1st as a possibility. The greater need is RZim to 1st.

      • Section 222 - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:45 PM

        Ghost, Nate McLouth in CF next year? You can’t be serious.

        I agree that finding a home for Zim where he doesn’t have to throw much is more important. We’re going to have to endure a few more years of Werth in the outfield I’m afraid. But many can that guy hit. OPS of 1.388 in July. Leads the majors in XBH and RBIs.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 3:39 AM

        If Espi was given a chance to compete for 2nd in this year’s ST, I’m sure publicly McLouth’s name will be mentioned. He has as much chance as Espi did.

  14. David Proctor - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    Ryan Zimmerman is just about back to his career numbers. .

    .287/.349/.468, .817 OPS this year
    ..286/.352/.476, .828 OPS career

    • scmargenau - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:47 PM

      Or better’ dude can hit. And is clutch. Gotta be bag one next year.

  15. natsbro - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:31 PM

    Not much to say except what a great game today. Very entertaining. Lets keep it up boys!

  16. Joe Seamhead - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:27 AM

    Defensive stats are often hard to explain, and errors charged can often be taken with a little more than a grain of salt, but that said, errors do give some indication of a players fielding performance. Denard Span was beat up pretty bad last month by the stat-heads with their mythical UZR claim that said his rating as a centerfielder was -10, or a “far below average fielder”. Well, like I said, errors also only tell part of the story, but since the beginning of the 2013 season through Sunday’s game,Span has been charged with exactly one error. Meanwhile, over that same time period the guy that many claim to be the best overall outfielder in MLB has been charged with 9 errors in the same time period. Yes, Carlos Gomez gets to a lot of balls, makes several Web Gem catches a year at the wall, but he also misplays enough of the routine balls to have been charged with a pretty fair amount of errors.I’m not really saying that Span is the best CFer in the league, but there isn’t the overall separation between him and anyone rated higher than him that FanGraphs and their like would have you believe.

  17. veejh - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:38 AM

    4th best record in the MLB and 3rd best run differential. I think we’re in a good spot.

  18. stoatva - Jul 21, 2014 at 3:50 AM

    A 5-4 road trip would keep the Nats on track, but the Rockies, Reds and Marlins are all in a highly vulnerable state right now, so I’m hoping for better.

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