Werth proves his value with arm as well as bat

Jayson Werth watches his solo home run head over the right-field wall in the ninth inning, giving the Phillies a 4-2 lead. Werth also threw out the Giants' Cody Ross at third base in the fourth.
Jayson Werth watches his solo home run head over the right-field wall in the ninth inning, giving the Phillies a 4-2 lead. Werth also threw out the Giants' Cody Ross at third base in the fourth.
Posted: October 22, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - Before his home run reached the right-field seats in the ninth inning, Jayson Werth already had made a dent in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.

Back in the fourth inning, winds swirled all around AT&T Park - in what direction? Pick a flag . . . all directions were represented.

All that added to the majesty of the throw. At the time, Werth's thoughts were lower to the ground. He thought that he couldn't skip it, he said, that there isn't much room behind third base in this ballpark.

Tagging up on the fourth-inning fly ball, Phillies killer Cody Ross had to think he'd get to third base. (Wasn't that part of his deal with the devil?) Instead, Werth's throw dropped in just ahead of him, reaching Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco's glove exactly where and when Polanco needed it. All Polanco had to do was drop the tag on the back of the sliding Ross to end the threat and protect a Phillies lead that held up all night.

The lead was one run from the bottom of the fourth to the top of the ninth, until Werth homered for the 13th time in postseason play - a National League record - giving the Phillies a crucial, two-run lead that would become a 4-2 victory.

A right-handed batter hitting the ball out in right - that doesn't happen here. The winds were a factor then.

"I've hit a lot of balls good here to right field and they've gone nowhere," Werth said.

Adding to the night was the realization that if the Phillies lost and their season had ended, Werth may have played his last game with the Phillies. That throw, a Werth staple, may have been a memory. The conventional wisdom says that as the rightfielder enters free agency, the bidding will be high, and the Phillies won't necessarily be the highest bidder.

Asked if the thought ever entered his head Thursday that it could be his last game in a Phillies uniform, Werth said: "No. No. Thanks for reminding me."

Werth, now 31 years old, earned $7.5 million this year. His 46 doubles led the National League. If he leaves, the Phillies will lose their top righthanded power bat. This season, Werth had 27 homers and 85 RBIs with a .296 average, after 36 and 99 and .268 in 2009.

Phillies fans know his holes, too. Werth works the count deep, time after time. He walked 184 times over the last two seasons.

He also struck out 303 times in those two regular seasons. He left a season-long stream of runners in scoring position, and did it again Thursday night.

In the second inning, Werth struck out looking. In the three-run third inning, Werth ended it when he flied to left, leaving runners on second and third. (Ryan Howard was more responsible for leaving those runners on, striking out just ahead of Werth.)

But if Werth goes, all the righthanded power leaves the Phillies' lineup, along with one of the biggest outfield arms in the game. Gone will be the guy who is as responsible as anyone for keeping the defending champs alive in the NLCS on a windy and sometimes rainy night in Frisco.

Before Werth got to the interview room, two men took screwdrivers to a wooden box, packing the National League championship trophy for the trip to Philadelphia.

"Enjoy your flight," Werth told the room.


Contact staff writer Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or mjensen@phillynews.com.

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