Werth The Wait
Threats of severe weather began circulating the Twittersphere around the top of the eighth inning of Sunday afternoon’s game, as Miami was adding a run to stretch their lead to 6-3 over the Nationals. Ryan Zimmerman, on his bobblehead day, drilled a two-run shot into the bullpen in the bottom of the frame to cut the margin to one, while reports of tornados in Northern Virginia began to spread. And shortly after Tyler Clippard shut the Marlins down in the top of the ninth to bring Washington up for a dramatic bottom of the ninth, the storm hit.
Wind blew dust and debris over the top of the upper deck down the third base line, as fans took shelter on the concourse. Then came the rain, which blew sideways, the air currents nearly strong enough to take the tarp (and a couple of grounds crew members) with it as it whipped through the lower bowl. Slowly, the storm dissipated and the rain died out, and after two-and-a-half hours, play resumed, with the top of the Nationals order due up against Marlins closer Heath Bell in a 6-5 game.
Jayson Werth, set to lead off, had been stalking around the clubhouse, rallying the team with the cry of, “Let’s get two!” to signify the runs needed to tie, then win, the ballgame. The Nationals got just 11 minutes of notice that the game was resuming, rather than the normal 20-30 in rain delay situations, with Werth getting the least amount of time to prepare. He fell behind 1-2, eventually fouling off three pitches as he worked Bell to a full count. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, he saw a fastball up and pummeled it to center field for game-tying home run, arguably his biggest hit since joining the Nationals last season.
The weather chased off most of the announced crowd of over 28,000, but the hearty souls that remained, probably less than a thousand in all, went nuts. In fact, they were living and dying on every pitch, chanting “Dreeewww” throughout the top of the 10th, when Drew Storen came on to strike out the side.
When Adam LaRoche led off the bottom of the 10th with a single, then raced around to third on Ian Desmond’s single, belly-flopping through the mud to bring the tying run to third with nobody out, they reached a fever pitch. After an intentional walk to Danny Espinosa and a force out at home against a five-man infield by Kurt Suzuki, recently-recalled Corey Brown stepped in with the bases loaded and one out, setting the stage for yet another set of late-inning heroics.
“I was just trying to get a ball to the outfield, hoping for a sacrifice fly,” Brown explained after the game.
Instead, his fly ball to left glanced off the mitt of a running Giancarlo Stanton for the game-winning single, as Desmond raced home and the Nationals walked off with a win nearly six hours after the first pitch of the game.
Ultimately, the game reiterated for each of us the mantra that has existed at Nationals Park since the home opener, when Zimmerman scampered home on a wild pitch in the 10th inning for a walk-off win: Don’t ever leave early, you never know what might happen.