Inside the Phillies: Don't count out Phillies or Nats just yet, Werth says

Ex-Phillie Jayson Werth said he believes the NL East race will be interesting come September.
Ex-Phillie Jayson Werth said he believes the NL East race will be interesting come September. (AP)
Posted: June 20, 2013

The Phillies and the Washington Nationals have more than Jayson Werth in common these days.

Both teams have dealt with a litany of injuries that have turned them into offensively challenged ballclubs. With a 4-2 victory Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies pulled into a second-place tie with Washington and gained 11/2 games on the first-place Atlanta Braves, who were swept in a doubleheader with the New York Mets.

"We've kind of got our own problems over here," Werth said when asked about the Phillies' problems before the game. "Yeah, it seems like they're not scoring runs, either. We're in the same boat."

So which team has a better chance of turning it around? Ten out of 10 people not on the Phillies' payroll would tell you the Nationals. They are the younger team and the defending division champion. They are the team a lot of people picked to win the World Series.

I'd vote with the majority because the Nationals have better pitching top to bottom. It's still difficult to fathom that the Phillies have the second-worst earned run average in the National League just two seasons after they had an ERA for the ages. For all the angst about the offense, the greatest concern going forward is arms.

Werth, who homered off Cliff Lee in the fourth inning of Tuesday's rain-delayed game, knows what it is like to be in the clubhouse of each team. When things went bad, which they did more than once during the Phillies' run of five straight division titles, Werth was often a voice of calm and reason.

At 34 and in his third season with Washington, he tries to play that same role with the Nationals.

"I saw something that we haven't had our full lineup since mid-April," Werth said. "Last year we had injuries, too, but everyone was hitting. But this year we're just not hitting. Hopefully things will turn and we'll get going. But really I don't mind where we're at. I really like our team. We were picked as the best team to win the World Series by a lot of people. I still think that's the case."

The injury comparison between the teams is fascinating. People think the Phillies' injuries are a by-product of being too old. The Nationals, with the exception of Werth, are anything but.

Leftfielder Bryce Harper is only 20. The bursitis in his left knee couldn't care less. He's on the disabled list and received a recent injection to help alleviate the problem. Catcher Wilson Ramos is 25, but that hasn't prevented his left hamstring from sending him to the disabled list twice this season. Stephen Strasburg is 24, but that didn't keep him from going to the disabled list earlier this month.

"The hardest part has always been staying healthy," said Werth, who suffered a wrist injury in his mid-20s that cost him an entire year.

Age, of course, is a factor. Werth is willing to admit that.

"I'm not 24, that's for sure," he said. "The other side of that is experience and know-how. I know myself a lot better and I understand the game a lot better. There is good and bad with it. It's just part of it."

That's a part the Phillies are dealing with and hoping to benefit from at some point.

The way Werth sees it, the best record in the regular season isn't worth all that much. The Nationals had it last year, the Phillies the year before. They were both erased from the postseason by the St. Louis Cardinals in the divisional round.

"I've been thinking lately this is maybe where we need to be, and as the season goes on we'll be playing from behind and it's going to really make us push to win," Werth said. "Like those teams in '07 and '08 that came from behind in September. I feel like that's where we really learned how to win, coming from behind like that and playing must-win games. I think it's good for us. We'll see if it works out or not, but I don't mind being where we're at, that's for sure."

There is a long line of people who do mind where the Phillies are right now, and that has created some shorter lines to get into Citizens Bank Park this season. Werth's advice is to not give up on his old teammates.

"I know that team over there pretty well," he said. "It's pretty much the same core group of guys. I know what they're capable of doing. Even last year in September, they were tough. I think it's going to be interesting at the end. The Braves have played really well. We'll see if they can continue to do it. In the beginning they were as hot as could be. I said in spring training that I thought the Phillies were going to be good."

So far, neither the Nats nor the Phils have been good.

For the young team and the old one, time remains the one thing on their side.


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @brookob.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|