Werth's homer in ninth keeps Nationals alive in NL Division Series

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond immediately thought of Jayson Werth's game-tying home run last month against the Miami Marlins, a superb piece of theatre that eventually gave the Nationals a win. Drew Storen remembered the game-ending home run he gave up to Werth two years ago in Philadelphia.

In a career studded with memorable moments, Werth has had his share. But few can match the walk-off homer he hit in the ninth inning on Thursday night at Nationals Park to lift the Nats to a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals and keep their season alive for at least one more day.

(View a photo gallery with images from the game)

The win in Game 4 evened this NL Division Series at 2-2 with a decisive Game 5 set for Friday night in prime time at home. The winner will take on the San Francisco Giants in the NL Championship Series beginning Sunday.

The two clubs had been tied 1-1 since the third inning when Carlos Beltran evened the game on a sacrifice fly. From there starters Ross Detwiler and Kyle Lohse locked down the opposing hitters, and each team's bullpen did the same. Werth led off the Washington half of the ninth and scrapped and clawed with St. Louis reliever Lance Lynn for 13 agonizing pitches. He finally ripped the last one over the wall in left field and set off a riotous celebration.

"We've faced [Lynn] a lot over September and in this series, so I knew what he had," Werth said. "But I think he threw a hook 2-2 to get to 3-2, and I figured from there I wasn't going to get off the heater. Fouled a couple more off and finally got one to hit."

Werth said he had watched former Philadelphia teammate Raul Ibanez blast two home runs for the New York Yankees on Wednesday night to lift that club to a dramatic win over the Baltimore Orioles. He "probably texted [Ibanez] 20 times congratulating him" and eventually received four or five back Thursday morning.

"I love October baseball," Werth said.

And his teammates were confident he would come through. On Sept. 8 -- after a rain delay of 2 hours, 33 minutes before the bottom of the ninth inning and with just a few hundred fans left in the stands -- Werth battled Marlins reliever Heath Bell for eight pitches. He waited on a fastball and crushed it over the center-field wall to tie the game 6-6, and Washington eventually won in 10 innings.

Werth's battle vs. Lynn was even more impressive. He fell behind 0-2, ignored a tough slider to even the count and proceeded to foul off six consecutive pitches. Werth took ball three, fouled off one more for good measure and then beat Lynn with a liner to left.

"That [Miami game] is exactly what that reminded me of," said teammate Adam LaRoche, who provided the Nats' only other run with a second-inning homer. "Fought and fought and fought, fouled off a bunch of pitches and launches one. He's got a knack for doing big things on a big stage. And it was impressive but not surprising."

For his part, Storen remembered blowing a three-run lead to the Phillies on Sept. 19, 2010. Werth fought off one tough slider after another and then launched a game-winner to center. Afterward, Storen was one of the first teammates to reach Werth and screamed that he knew what was about to happen.

"[Werth] is great at battling with two strikes, and once he kept fouling off, he was honing in," Storen said. "So if he got a good pitch to hit, I knew he was going to do something with it."

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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