Sunday, December 30, 2012

Most significant moments: The walk-off

Associated Press photo
Jayson Werth's walk-off homer kept the Nats' season alive for another day.
As we count down the final days of 2012, we're also counting down the Nationals' five most significant moments of the year. It all culminates tomorrow with your vote for the most significant moment of 2012. But before we get to that, today we focus on Moment No. 2: Jayson Werth's walk-off homer in Game 4 of the NLDS...

It was, unquestionably, the high point of a remarkable season. Not to mention the high point in the Nationals' eight-year history. Really, the high point for Washington baseball in nearly eight decades.

When Jayson Werth battled his way through an epic, 13-pitch at-bat against the Cardinals' Lance Lynn to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 4 of the National League Division Series, finally belting Lynn's 13th pitch into the left-field bleachers, D.C. baseball fans got to experience something they likely never had before: Pure, unadulterated joy at the ballpark.

It was the kind of moment every kid dreams of, rounding the bases to the roar of 45,000 fans, the opposing team trudging off the field in disgust, a throng of teammates forming a semi-circle around the plate waiting to join in the celebration.

"This is what you play all season for," Werth said that night. "This is why you work out all winter. This is why you start playing T-ball when you're four. This is baseball, man. This is why you play."

For practical purposes, Werth's walk-off homer extended the Nationals' season. It staved off elimination in the first round of the playoffs and forced a do-or-die Game 5 the following night.

But this moment transcended practical purposes. Yes, it kept the Nats alive for another day, but more significantly it may have kept this franchise relevant in this town for many more days, months and years to come.

The Nationals had already won over plenty of fans over the course of their first winning season and added more to the growing base by bringing postseason baseball to the District for the first time since 1933.

But had they lost that first postseason series in four games, had they gone out with a whimper, the general populace might never have bought into the whole idea of pledging lifelong allegiance to the local ballclub.

Instead, the dramatic Game 4 victory may well have brought hundreds of thousands more fans into the fold, creating a new legion of Nationals supporters. Need evidence to support that? Look at the television ratings for the final two games of the series. Game 4 was watched in approximately 214,800 local households. Game 5 was watched in approximately 394,000.

They may not all tune in for Opening Day 2013, but you better believe a whole lot of them will.

Years from now, we may look back on Game 4 as the night Washington became a baseball town.

For that, you can thank Jayson Werth and the most epic at-bat this town had witnessed in a really long time.

77 comments:

The Retired Journalist said...

"Pure, unadulterated joy." The Washington Nationals have given me two such moments in a ballpark so far. The first was the first: first pitch of the first game of the first season at RFK Stadium. This was the other.

I was pretty certain this would be #2 and I'm dreading reliving #1 on New Year's Eve, but I can't argue with the ranking.

3on2out said...

We have the winner ladies and gentlemen! The greatest post-season win in DC baseball in 79 years! (admittedly, a small universe to choose from but nevertheless...) Werth's 13-pitch at bat a veritable work of art! I was on my feet and screaming for most of this game. My voice was a mess for nearly a month as a result.

sjm308 said...

Again, I love looking back at what a great ride this past season was. With this as # 2 I can only guess that game 5 will be #1. While obviously not a positive moment, I guess it certainly can be called significant.

Thanks again Mark for providing a vehicle to remember all of this one more time.

Go Nats!!

NatsNut said...

This one still gives me chills and that happy, fluttery feeling in the pit of my stomach. That at-bat, that feeling, is by far the highest of highs I've ever felt or witnessed in my baseball fandom.

JayB said...

That's the one for me.....each pitch was a build up...each pitch turned the tide...all of the fans sitting around me could sense it coming. We talked about it.....It was not a game winning home run for all of us. Yes for me it was a walk...leading to a stolen base and a Harper hit....but it was a win....you could just feel it growing.

Yes for that night I will always be thankful for Lerner money and Jason Werth....even in the last year of that contract.

original Nats Fan said...

the happiest moment in my baseball life. I'm looking forward to more of the same. [I don't even want to think about game 5.]

Joe Seamhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JayB said...

Yes that was not clear....I understand and have been calling for Lerners to way overspend to get a proven FA for years. Yes they had tried a few times before and yes it was going to take a huge overspend. That cost was on Lerners though...they had spend 5 years reaping profits and putting bad baseball on the field without even trying to improve it. Paul LoDuca, Johnny Estrata, Manny Acta....it goes on as you all know.......I do like that Werth is a lifer and a baseball rat.....something this team needs.....just as did 2007 team.

Joe Seamhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MicheleS said...

So I went back to the post game thread on this one. I think this sums up exactly how I felt:

MicheleS said...
WOOOOOO EFFFIN HOOOOO!!!!!!

October 11, 2012 7:19 PM

Joe Seamhead said...

I can't seem to get my thoughts down coherently yet this morning. Bartender! Can we get a coffee over here?

Joe Seamhead said...

You said it perfectly, JayB.

Laddie Blah Blah said...

That Werth HR was the most clutch situational AB in the history of the Nats.

MicheleS said...

And for your viewing pleasure:

Walk Off!

Candide said...

If this wasn't the most significant moment of the season, it was hands-down the happiest. Cunegonde and I were dancing around the TV room, and I dance like a drunk pig on ice skates. Around the tenth pitch, I saw it coming - told Cunegonde, "he can't get Werth out; he's gonna hit one out." Wish I was that smart all the time.

Maurymania said...

Only two sports moments in my 60 years exceeded Jason's homer. Dexter batting the pass from Hogeboom to Daryl Grant on New Year's Eve 1982 to beat the 'Boys and head to the Super Bowl...and lowly Walt Whitman H.S. defeating Eleanor Roosevelt at Comcast Center for the State Title in 2006, 39-38 (10 similar minutes of unadulterated joy). What a great night, and the opportunity to share it live with my 82 yr. old Dad was really special.

flynnie said...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-sports-bog/wp/2012/10/11/audio-jayson-werths-walk-off-home-run/

Joe Seamhead said...

Thanks, MicheleS and flynnie. I never, ever get tired of replaying it in whatever format.

SonnyG10 said...

I remember thinking as I watched the ball sail into the night and Jayson rounding the bases "yes, you're worth every cent of that $128 million."

Yelling in Lower Case said...

I listen to the radio call for this at bat at least once a week. I became one of the hardcore fans you are talking about in this post. I am now a season ticket holder and a Nats fanatic. 2013 is going to be another special season!

Unknown said...

Mark - This post shows why you are the best baseball writer in this town. Thank you. More than anyone else, except perhaps Thomas Boswell, you understand the game and how much it means to have these moments in Washington after waiting so long -- and so unfairly in my opinion -- for baseball to return to the nation's capital. [incidentally - what other nation left its national sport out of its capital city for more than three decades? Absolutely absurd]

I was at that game and it is one of the sports highlights of my life. Thanks for bringing its immediate and larger meaning to life so eloquently.

Mark and readers -- Happy 2013. May it hold a World Series title for our wonderful city.

BigCat said...

Will also always remember Jordon Zimmerman coming out of the pen and just blowing away the Cards on 10 pitches with serious serious stuff.

JamesFan said...

In one swing of the bat, Werth established himself in Washington baseball lore forever. That one beautiful moment wiped away all the whining and complaining about Werth and his contract. The benefit of JW to the team and the city suddenly outweighed the cost and should end all the second guessing.

LoveDaNats said...

The single, most amazing game I've ever attended in my life!!!! Tears of joy, jumping, screaming, hugging perfect strangers............awesome! I am attending the Redskins game tonight wearing the pants and boots I wore to game 4. Just changing out the jersey. They can't lose.

John C. said...

I still get chills watching that clip. I was lucky enough to be at the ballpark in my usual seats in the 300's. It was such an amazing wall of sound, jubilation and joy that it wasn't until I was watching the clip on the highlights the next day that I realized that they had touched off fireworks. :)

JaneB said...

Watching the clip you posted made me cry, MichelleS. I was hoarse for DAYS after this game. Loved every squeak that came out of throat because I had earned it honestly and happily.

I have to agree with Unknown that this post is more evidence that Mark Z is the best person covering the Nats. It wasn't just a fun, game and series-saving moment. It was a turning point in the fan relationship with the team (well, Those Late-Blooming Fans. Not US).

I'm just now coming to understand that "most significant" doesn't mean "Best" and now I see what's coming tomorrow, now that Retired Journalist clued me in. But I'm basking in this hit today, just like we did then. I'm headed back to the video tape now, in fact.

Thank you Mark. Really. Thank you. As great as that hit was, and it WAS, it's all the greater because you've built this community for us to share it all with. Same with whatever you might happen to have to post tomorrow.

MicheleS said...

I would also like to add the FIRST John Lannan Game this season for consideration as the most significant moments.

NI Watcher said...

The second most memorable moment for games I have attended in Nats history (and I go back to the Senators as well) was the walk-off by RZim in the first game at the new Nationals Stadium. I didn't think that could be beat until Game 4. Now nothing will come close to that.

Faraz Shaikh said...

I am sure everyone has heard by now that Marlins are listening on Stanton offers. Too bad Nats don't have room or pieces to trade for him.

3on2out said...

I second that emotion, MicheleS. Lannan's start was profoundly more important than the "shutdown."

Taino in DC said...

The part I remember the most about that game was after I jump and jump around ,realized got no tickets for the next game . Tried and tried to connect to stubhub from the stadium , no chance , so almost at midnight , gave up and call the ex to do me a favor :). Then ,next night ......

Joe Seamhead said...

I'll tell you one thing. Nobody ever better call Jayson 'werthless" within earshot of Mrs. Seamhead again. She gets very defensive about Jayson. I thought my ol' flower child was going to lay one upside some bozo's head, [a supposed Nats fan], at the Miller Lite Bar during the Phillies series when Jayson broke his wrist. The missus has said many times since game 4 that she hopes to run into that clown again.

peric said...

Nice article by Kilgore on Harper ... Kilgore looks like the fair haired boy at WaPo. Seminal articles on the Redskins for the Insider followed with posts on the Nats and in the NJ. I wonder if he's been promoted or something?

peric said...

I still like Werth far better at lead-off than at #5. He's has far more impact and has been far more effective there. I still see Werth replacing Span eventually in that role ... and Rizzo realizing once again, as he did with Morgan, that he made a mistake. Each franchise has a unique stamp or signature. Ours looks like one of impact bats and great defense. Speed best used for the latter.

UnkyD said...

Y'know... That's the umpteenth time that radio link to Dave and Charlie's call has been posted, and there never seems to be a link to the radio call on the WP page...

Sure would love to hear it... Also, if anyone could get vid of the whole at-bat... I love to see that, as well....

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

@Unky D ... try this fan vid from behind home plate

MicheleS said...

Unkyd, sadly with the TBS Crew:

Werth's Full AB

baseballswami said...

I agree with NI Watcher-before that AB, it was the Zim walk off the first night att Nats Park. I also watch/ listen to this one very often. The 13 pitch lead up made it all the more special. Does anyone remember how long that took? I knew at the time -- epic truly describes it. I also will never forget JZim's inning in relief.lots of special moments and memories. I think I will skip tomorrow.

Joe Seamhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NatsLady said...

I watched the fan video, it was about a 6-minute at-bat. During that time there were like three 3 plays in the pointy ball game and 3 penalties. And another penalty as I type.

UnkyD said...

Thanks, guys! EPIC.

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

NL, close ... If you count it from when he steps in to when he crosses home, pretty near 6 minutes. It is almost exactly 5 minutes, maybe a few seconds longer, from first pitch to last pitch.

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

There's a football game on TV?

NatsLady said...

for-mlb-venezuelan-players-stardom-comes-hidden-danger

http://espn.go.com/boston/mlb/story/_/id/8786876/for-mlb-venezuelan-players-stardom-comes-hidden-danger

" Next time you hear about the second-highest paid player in baseball forgetting how to hit because he quit chewing tobacco, remember: Some players are laboring under the concern that they or their families might be kidnapped." --Isaac Raush

NatsLady said...

Sofa, yeah. The Filly team is getting clobbered. In other news, the Ballmer team is playing their 2nd and 3rd string because they already clinched.

NatsLady said...

And in between--there's this and that on the fiscal cliff. I assume they'll break for the Potatoes game... ;)

Section 222 said...

Great memories. So well recalled by Mark, but I have to say that some of the comments here are beautifully written too. Thanks everyone.

I was watching nervously from my regular seats in 314, and like JayB, I wasn't expecting a Werth walkoff. But once he started fouling off pitches, I thought "he's going to get on base and score the winning run." Boy did he.

I loved the Zim walkoff on opening night in Nats Park too, and so many other walkoffs as well. I think it's fair to say that at the moments they occurred they caused pure unadulterated joy. Strasburg's debut was another such moment, especially when he struck out the side in the 7th inning, bringing all the hopes for the future we've had since the team arrived in 2005, that much closer to fruition.

But the Werth walkoff truly was special. All of a sudden the path to a World Series title was clear -- Gio on the mound the next night, at home. Homefield advantage in the NLCS and the WS. A pitching staff like none other in baseball, even without Stras. And then the first three innings of Game5 gave us an explosion of firepower just like we knew they could give us, at just the right time. And then... well, we all know what happened. I'm sure Mark, bless him, will make us relive the horror tomorrow in his inimitable fashion.

Within 25 hours, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat like I've never experienced it before, and probably, hopefully, never will again. For today, we'll just recall the thrill, not the agony.

natsfan1a said...

Absolutely loved it, and re-watching video of that moment moves me every time. Replay of my game report from that wonderful night is below.

natsfan1a said...

Some random, fan-side musings from last night (taken in part from an email to a friend):

It was awesome! The crowd was really into it, particularly in the late innings. Nobody wanted to leave after it ended. The PA guy was trying to drop hints: "See you tomorrow night for an exciting Game 5, Nats fans." Spontaneous "Let's go Nats" cheers were breaking out on the concourse as we walked out, and in the Metro station. Easily my fave in-person game ever. I hope I have some voice left, as we bought tix via StubHub for tonight. My husband and I both woke up at some point in the night, and I croaked out a "Let's go, Nats." He laughed and went back to sleep. I tried to go back to sleep (I was just a tad bit amped).

At the game, sat in the RF corner with a friend. Pretty fun group in that section. In front of us were a lady (mom) and two young boys (maybe 9 or 10?), an older girl, and an older lady. At one point early in the game, after some nice play or other, one kid turned to me and extended his glove hand (of course he brought his glove). "High five," he said. I did. He would also turn periodically and instruct me to wave my towel. I did. The kids had several very nice signs they'd made, and they held them up at various points in the action. Each of the boys scored a baseball over the course of the game. Mom was keeping score, including ball-strike counts for each at-bat (I'm not quite at that level). After the game ended, we all high-fived, and the girl said to me "good cheering." Thanks, dear, I try to do my part to help out the team.

Behind us was a Phils fan who was rooting for STL and SFO to lose (bad postseason memories). He also heckled Beltran a bit (in a light-hearted way) and noted all the ex-Phils who were making contributions in division series (Ibanez, Pence, and, later, Werth). Speaking of Werth, I did kinda yell out that we needed a walkoff as he trotted from his position in the middle of the 9th. Doubt he heard me, though. It was kinda loud there. :-)

Section 222 said...

1a, thanks for the nudge to go back and read some of the comments at the time. Very fun. Here's part of my postgame comment:

"The game, whoa, the game. Totally mesmerizing. What a relief when Det got through the second inning and it became clear he really had his good stuff. Our "bullpen" (I'm using air quotes because of the addition of one JZnn) was unbelievable. The crowd was so into those at bats, it reminded me of the last two innings of Strasburg's debut.

I felt good about our chances in the bottom of the 9th -- team pumped up by the good relief outings, top of the order coming up. But I don't think anyone expected what happened. Werth's AB was epic, and I expected him to take a walk or poke the ball into left field, not crush it into the bullpen. Wow.

Back in October 2007, I walked over to Nats Park, which was still under construction, and stood on the left field concourse looking at a gleaming new ballpark taking shape. I had just seen the Phillies playoff game, with 40,000 fans screaming the entire time, and seemingly standing the entire time. I imagined that some day I might be in a packed Nats Park, with 40,000 fans of my team, and feel that kind of excitement and community. Yesterday it happened. Boy did it happen. An unforgettable experience.

And now I can't wait for tonight."

Little did we know what was in store for us. I guess that's what makes baseball the greatest game ever.

natsfan1a said...

Great post, 222.

baseballswami said...

Awwww. This was so much fun today. Wake me when tomorrow is over.

Laddie Blah Blah said...

Thanks for that link, Michelle. I had totally forgotten Werth was in an 0 - 2 count before fighting through the next 10 pitches to get to pitch no. 13.

sm13 said...

In 50+ years of going to ballgames, I can't recall a single at bat that matched Jason's for drama. The crowd eruption when he connected was phenomenal. A moment I'll savor for a long time.

baseballswami said...

I was told that the roar could be heard from some distance away.

NatsLady said...

Werth is not afraid of a 2-strike count. He might be good in the 2-hole to hit after Span if you want Span to steal.

Bzl. said...

I've got tears running down my cheeks because I just listened (again) to the audio clip. Certainly, a memory that will live with me forever. So glad I was there! (The TBS broadcast really didn't do it justice.)

I go to a lot of sporting events (including 30-40 Nats games a year) and nothing will ever top that... barring a similar walk-off to win the WS.

RickH said...

This clip shows the video 3 times and has the audio from the TV, from the Nats radio broadcast and the Cardinals radio broadcast. As I told someone, you couldn't even hear the announcer the cheering was so loud ... and I was home alone! (I went to games 3 and 5.)

http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=25388951&topic_id=8877508&c_id=was

peric said...

Werth is not afraid of a 2-strike count. He might be good in the 2-hole to hit after Span if you want Span to steal.

Davey doesn't like to steal. Not when he's got bats like Harper, Zimmerman, Morse, Desmond and perhaps Espy coming up. All potential impact bats. I'd much rather see Werth bat first, Span 2nd, Zim third and Harper 4th, followed by Morse. Then Espy and Desmond with Suzuki or Ramos bringing up the rear.

baseballswami said...

I know that's Davey's way, but what a waste of all that speed.

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

Not wasted, if he's going first-to-third on singles, and stealing just often enough to keep them thinking about it.

baseballswami said...

That's important-- stealing enough that it's a threat. I do think steal need to be strategic. Now, if we could just get our battery to prevent a few more steals.......

sm13 said...

Charlie and Dave's call was the next best thing to being there. It still gives me chills.

NatsLady said...

Davey's "way" is to adjust to the players he has. It will be interesting to see the dynamic with Span on board.

NatsLady said...

I was there AND I had Charlie and Dave in my ear. It was unreal. As I posted at the time, I was so excited I didn't care if we lost Game 5--which didn't turn out to be true. Live and learn.

peric said...

Davey's "way" is to adjust to the players he has. It will be interesting to see the dynamic with Span on board.

Davey's way is the same as Earl Weaver's. They hate wasting outs by risking steals and sacrifices while liking aggressive base running. He said this so many times last season its not even worth repeating. Most recently after Eury Perez took of on his own stealing third base from second. Perez did n't leave the bench after that.

Difference? Davey collected the stats to back that philosophy up.

Not wasted, if he's going first-to-third on singles, and stealing just often enough to keep them thinking about it.

More important on defense, but yes, speed on the base paths can be very helpful to an offense.

Joe Seamhead said...

I agree with Swami. We need to hold the opposition's runners better.
Why would you bat Werth 1st and Span 2nd? You effectively would neutralize Span's strengths, Again, all I have to go on about Denard is his reputation as a high OBP, low K, smart base runner. With the Nats hitters behind him, I predict that he not only will lead off, but also lead the league in runs scored, if he stays healthy.(Key phrase there). With Span-Werth starting a game it would seem that you could have a lot of opposing pitchers throwing a lot of 20+ 1st innings. As to the batting order, it's fun to speculate, hear other's thoughts,etc. but like so many other things, much depends on whether ALR returns. I'm a believer that speed on the bases kills the opposition in a variety of ways. A lead off speedster on base causes the pitcher to lose his concentration regarding the batter. From all that I have read about Denard Span he is said to be a smart ball player. That ends all comparisons to Morgan. I never ever heard him be accused of being smart.

Joe Seamhead said...

I meant to say 20+ pitches in the 1st innings

baseballswami said...

Number one need for the New Year----healthy players! More bubble wrap!

JR said...

I took my daughter out of school (3rd grade) for game 4. That moment of pure unadulterated communal joy shared with my girl is easily my best sports moment over. She was almost crying with joy as the crowd and the fireworks exploded, even if she wasn't completely sure why. My hope is that she keeps that moment with her all her life.

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

Epic Dad Win, JR. Nice work.

Joe Seamhead said...

Thumbs up, JR!

SonnyG10 said...

Yeaaah! Redskins beat Dallas and go to the playoffs! Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

peric said...

Now NL EAST champs best record in baseball ROY Bryce Harper AND
NFC East champs ROY Robert Griffin III. Its been a very good year even if we
do go off the fiscal cliff.

I like it.

peric said...

Why would you bat Werth 1st and Span 2nd? You effectively would neutralize Span's strengths, Again, all I have to go on about Denard is his reputation as a high OBP, low K, smart base runner.


For crying out loud he's not Maury Wills or Lou Brock? He's decent and that's it people sheesh!!!! Alternating right and left handed hitters might be more important if Harper is moved to #4. Makes it harder for NL managers to make double switch moves.

Its just Denard Span. NO he is not going to steal 100 bases NOT with Davey managing the club. Or have you had your head stuck under a faucet while watching these games? Davey is going to use his left-handed bat and his high OBP. Why Werth leading off? Because as this POST TELLS YOU Werth sets a particular tone as the key veteran of the club. He does that quite well leading off. He does almost the opposite in the #5 through #7 spot.

natsfan1a said...

Poll posted without a recap of the final significant moment, which we remember all too well. I like it.

(Oh, so those guys won? I did not know that. Seriously. But congrats to those who follow pointy ball. :-))

Joe Seamhead said...

Nobody said anything about Span stealing 100 bases,nor compared him to Wills, but I do remember somebody comparing him to Nyjer Morgan..But think about it, if Span gets a lead off hit, or BB, he is more likely to score on a follow up hit from Werth then the other way around. Admittedly Span is a slap singles hitter, a guy whose strength is not driving in runs, but setting the table instead. I see the possibility of Werth batting second, maybe even a probability of it, but I also think Werth is a lot more comfortable in his own skin with this team today then he was when he was trying too hard to justify his contract and to try to carry the team as he did in 2011. Werth will excel wherever Davey puts him in the lineup.Look, peric, like I said, it's fun to hear other's thoughts about the team.None of us are filling out the lineup card. If I wanted to have only have my thoughts on baseball I wouldn't read, and contribute, to this blog,I'd keep a diary instead.But I like reading other folk's musings. As I've said before, two things everybody seems to think they can do better is run a restaurant and manage a baseball team.Care for a serving of pie?

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

And, of course, Charlie and Dave's finest hour:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-sports-bog/wp/2012/10/11/audio-jayson-werths-walk-off-home-run/?Post+generic=%3Ftid%3Dsm_twitter_washingtonpost

I have this banter memorized. Happy New Year, all!

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