PITTSBURGH — While the rest of the Nationals’ offense was rapping out a season-high 15 hits on the Pirates pitching Sunday afternoon, Jayson Werth was 0-for-5 with a run scored.
But Werth’s impact on the game was still felt.
With the Nationals protecting a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen — who is known for his speed — reached third base on a one-out single that put him on third when a throw by Jerry Hairston sailed over first baseman Adam LaRoche’s head and second baseman Danny Espinosa, backing LaRoche up, had the ball slip out of his hands into the stands.
The Pirates were still down by three but when Jose Tabata sent a 1-2 slider from Drew Storen to right field for a routine fly out, the second out of the inning, McCutchen tried to tag and Werth gunned him down at the plate with help from a sweeping tag by catcher Ivan Rodriguez and the game was over.
Replays were fairly inconclusive and even Rodriguez was unsure if he’d gotten him before McCutchen’s foot slid into the plate, but McCutchen was called out — despite his own protests (that involved slamming his batting helmet to the ground) and those of Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. The game was over and Werth had made an impeccable throw on the fly to make sure of it.
“I told him(Werth) ‘That’s why you keep playing,’” said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. “He played the whole game through and he didn’t get any hits but he made the final play of the game to send us home with a win.”
It was the first time since baseball returned to Washington that the Nationals have won a game with the final out coming at home plate, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
It was a curious decision to begin with that McCutchen would be running there, down by three runs, and while opinions were mixed as to whether the out call was accurate — and the Pirates insisted to reporters after the game that they’d run in that situation every time — it was one of the more interesting game-ending double plays you’ll see.
Werth seemed pretty fired up after the play, pumping his fist and slapping his glove after the play.
“You don’t see that too often,” said first baseman Adam LaRoche. “I heard on the replay he missed him or something but either way, that’s a tough way to end it.”