It was chaos. It was utter chaos. I threw an $8 beer in the air and nobody blinked.
The moments immediately following Jayson Werth’s game-winning home run had me hugging random grown men and high-fiving cops. For a flash of time the atmosphere went beyond jubilation—it was ecstasy, brought on in a way only sports can deliver.
For Werth, it must have been incredible. Loaded with the baggage of a large contract, he’d had to deal with countless taunts and insults for what at times was poor performance. To hit the biggest home run in the history of the Washington Nationals franchise had to serve as some form of redemption.
And for the Nats, Werth’s home run means even more.
Locked in a tie in Game 4 of the National League Division Series—coming off an embarrassing loss and with an offense that was lackluster at best—the Nats did not want to go to extra innings. If they lost this game, the Nats’ dream season was over. With a win, they’d get to keep playing.
On a day when the team needed good pitching, they got it. Ross Detwiler gave the Nats a great start, and manager Davey Johnson displayed some of his baseball genius when he tabbed starter Jordan Zimmermann for an inning of relief work. ZNN looked sharp, as did Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen after him.
The stage was set for heroics, and Werth delivered.
His walk-off homer brings the Nats to an all-or-nothing Game 5. Tonight. Against defending World Series champs the St. Louis Cardinals.
More heroics will be necessary for the Nats to advance. Certainly they need a strong pitching performance from ace starter Gio Gonzalez. I expect they’ll get it. But the Nats also need their batters to show up, which hasn’t been the case for most of this series. The Cardinals are experienced playoff winners; tonight will be no easy feat.
Throughout the regular season, Washington showed resolve, not getting down after losses and winning plenty of tight contests. But last night Werth proved the Nats can do it in the playoffs. Perhaps that can serve to remind this Nats team just how good they are.
This is what October baseball feels like. Any pitch can break your heart. Every at-bat carries the hopes of a city.
In the ninth inning, Werth showed why the Nats signed him. It was a professional at-bat: Werth was patient despite having two strikes, fought off the tough stuff, and when the right pitch came, he crushed it.
It sent the stadium into hysteria. It sent the Nats to Game 5. Let’s hope he does it again.
Find JP Finlay on Twitter @jpfinlay.