Associated Press photo
Jayson Werth's walk-off homer kept the Nats' season alive for another day.
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.