In the dugout between the top of the ninth inning and a bottom of it that would become one of the most irrelevant ever played, the Washington Nationals turned their eyes to the out-of-town scoreboard and learned that the National League East was theirs.
“It’s kind of odd, you know?” said Nationals’ right fielder Jayson Werth. “We’re getting beat, but we’re celebrating. It was cool. This team deserves this. We’ve come a long way, we’ve got a long way to go and we’ve got a lot of tough games ahead of us. But this is quite an accomplishment.”
The last time Werth was taking part in a celebration like this it was with the team that watched the Nationals from across the field Monday night. It was as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
“That was the first time we won and got beat,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.
From the dugout in the ninth, Werth looked over to the Phillies’ dugout. His decision to leave Philadelphia and come to Washington was questioned by so many when the Nationals signed him to a $126-million contract in the winter of 2010. He said then he saw something building here, but Philadelphia will always have a special place for him.
“I looked over in the ninth at Charlie and kind of gave him a (nod),” Werth said. “I was saying ‘Thanks.’ I don’t know how he took it, but he gave it back.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Charlie Manuel and I have a lot of respect for a lot of those guys over there. It doesn’t really change anything, who we were playing, I’m happy we could do it.”
“It’s gratifying,” he added. “It’s quite an accomplishment. We’ve come a long way in a very short time.”
In the aftermath, Werth was front and center in the Nationals’ celebration. He led the champagne shower and the team’s charge out onto the field to share the moment with the fans that hung around. He ripped off his soaked jersey and swung it around his head in the center of the clubhouse.
He thought back to the moment he knew something like this might be possible.
“Last September,” he said. “Last September, when Davey had been here for a couple months and the team really settled in. As good as we played in September, the mentality we had on a day-in, day-out basis, just our makeup and everything about this team. I think last September was the turning point.”
“I’ll be honest,” he added. “At the beginning of the year last year I wasn’t so sure. When I got here this place was upside-down. It wasn’t till Davey took over and really September came around, this team became a type of team that could really play, could really show up every day and had a lot of heart.
“The character and the makeup of this team as put together by Mike Rizzo and the Lerner family is unbelievable. It starts with the belief and here we are, Oct. 1 of Year Two, really, for me. I couldn’t be happier.”