The Washington Times - August 7, 2011, 08:28PM

DENVER — Wrapping up the Nationals 3-2 win over the Rockies that earned them a series split, a few notes as the Nationals head to Chicago…

– Jayson Werth may still have a paltry batting average for the season (.223) and may still not be fully comfortable with where he’s at offensively, but given the way things were going for much of the season, it’s tough to argue with his production of late.


In his last 11 games, Werth is hitting .285 (12-for-42) with two homers, eight RBI and seven runs scored. He’s been more aggressive, too, and that paid off for him Sunday afternoon when he offered at a low, 1-2 slider from Matt Belisle with Danny Espinosa representing the go-ahead run at third base. Werth lofted Belisle’s pitch into shallow left field and Espinosa scampered home with the game winner.

“He hit the pitcher’s pitch and drove in the run,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “That was an outstanding ball. He’s not where he needs to be, but he’s getting close. I think all year long he’s been a little too passive. I like him more aggressive and he’s hitting more aggressive, as is the whole team. That’s a good sign.”

Werth admitted that if he wasn’t feeling comfortable it might have been a pitch he’d have laid off. The better he feels, he said, the more aggressive he will be and he’s been significantly more aggressive recently. Werth is known to take a lot of pitches and have patient at-bats, but he noticed early Sunday that his timing was a little off on the fastball. Instead of trying to adjust, he looked more for a slider and he got one.

“I wanted to be aggressive,” he said. “I just felt a little late on the fastball today. My timing was just a little late. I fouled off that two-strike heater up and I made a decision I wasn’t going to change. I felt like if I tried to speed up to hit the heater, I’m susceptible to a slider. I kind of stood fast and stayed pat. Just felt like that was my best chance and I got a slider and just tried to put it out there.

“I should be a low ball hitter. That’s what I usually am. I can hit that pitch.”

– The Nationals needed to turn to someone else for the eighth inning Sunday with Tyler Clippard and Ryan Mattheus both used in the seventh. They found that man in one of the same guys who faltered a night before: Todd Coffey.

Coffey needed just 12 pitches (eight strikes) to get through a scoreless, one-hit eighth — a big upgrade from the three hits and three earned runs he allowed in 2/3 of an inning Saturday night. His performance prompted Johnson to joke that his arm was so live from “all the chairs he threw around” Saturday.

Coffey relied mostly on his four-seam fastball and allowed only a leadoff single that proved harmless in helped get the one-run game to the ninth and closer Drew Storen. 

“That was a big, big performance from Todd,” Storen said. “He stepped into a big role. He’s a veteran guy who’s been in tough spots and he got the ball to the ninth.”

“I had a lot of confidence in Coffey,” Johnson said. “I really liked the way he was throwing the ball. I had (Sean) Burnett up and ready to come in but sometimes you don’t go with percentages you just go with gut feeling.”

Coffey admitted that it was good to get back on the mound so soon after an outing like the one he had a night before and was able to correct a flaw from Saturday where his pitches were “leaking” out of the middle of the plate a little bit more.

– Speaking of Clippard, he and Michael Morse combined for an uncharacteristic mental error in the seventh when Carlos Gonzalez sent a ground ball to Morse that the first baseman bobbled a bit. He looked up to throw the ball but Clippard failed to get over to cover the base. The Rockies cut the lead to one on the play and two batters later they tied the game on an RBI-single by Ty Wigginton. 

Luckily for both, the error became moot one inning later when Werth’s RBI-single dropped in and the Nationals eventually went on to win but it wasn’t a smooth play on either end and just the kind of thing that Johnson has gone on record as saying is unacceptable.

“It was a mental lapse,” Johnson said. “He should have gone over to first, but also my first baseman should have fielded the ball (cleanly) and he could walk over there. Both of them messed up.”

– Ryan Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a second-inning single and was 1-for-3 on the day. The streak is now the third longest of Zimmerman’s career, tying one that went from July 27 to August 13 in 2009. Zimmerman had a streak of 17 games in 2006 (June 28-July 18) and the franchise’s longest hitting streak, a 30-game stretch that lasted from April 8 to May 12, 2009.

During the current streak, Zimmerman is hitting .433 with seven doubles and seven RBI. He’s raised his average to .299 on the season, an impressive march considering it was sitting at .245 when the streak began.

– Laynce Nix was unavailable for most of Sunday, down with the same flu-like symptoms that hit Johnson earlier this week and affected third base coach Bo Porter before that. Johnson said Nix spent much of the game in the clubhouse sleeping. That still didn’t stop him from coming out as a pinch hitter in the top of the ninth and sending a one-out single to right field. Brian Bixler then came on to pinch run for Nix. Nix isn’t expected to be down with the illness for long.

– Ian Desmond and his brother-in-law Josh Roenicke played in the same major league game Sunday afternoon but, as has happened each time they’ve had a chance, Desmond did not face him. Roenicke entered to pitch the seventh inning for the Rockies in his Colorado debut but Desmond had just made the final out in the seventh inning. The two have played against one another before but have never once faced each other in a major league game. Roenicke, son of former Oriole Gary and nephew of Brewers manager Ron, is married to Desmond’s sister.