- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2011

PHILADELPHIA | The Philadelphia Phillies fans packed the stands at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night. All 45,695 of them found their seats early and came armed with signs, shirts and and a few choice chants for the Washington Nationals’ bearded right fielder.

In his first trip back to the City of Brotherly Love since the Phillies lost Game 6 of the 2010 National League Championship Series, Jayson Werth received a warm welcome from the notoriously fickle Philadelphia fans but left the park late Tuesday night much the same way he did last October — as a member of the losing team.

The ceremonial aspects of his return aside, there wasn’t much triumphant about it for the Washington Nationals, falling 4-1 as they were baffled by Cole Hamels for nine innings. The Phillies battered Livan Hernandez for 10 hits and four runs over 6 1/3 innings.

“It was a lot of fun,” Werth said, talking more about his return than the game’s outcome. “Obviously, the atmosphere is great. Packed house. Passionate fans. This is a very fun place to play, whether you’re the home team or the visiting team. There’s not too many places that are like this.”

Werth charmed them from the start, doffing his batting helmet even as many of the Philly faithful booed him on his walk to the plate — and they caved. Before he saw his first pitch, the cheers became a standing ovation and were so overwhelming that Werth tipped his cap a second time in appreciation before stepping inside the box.

“That meant a lot, it really did,” Werth said. “After the four seasons I spent here and what was accomplished while I was here, to welcome me back like that, it means a lot. It really does. It’s something I’ll definitely remember for a long time.”

A five-pitch walk and a stolen base later, the boos had resumed. But Werth — like most of his teammates — were largely nonfactors in the game after that, the exception being Michael Morse’s home run in the seventh that cut the Phillies‘ lead to 2-1 .

Washington struggled to produce anything against Hamels, who threw just 108 pitches in his five-hitter. He walked one and struck out six.

Hamels was the story,” said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. “The home run, it seemed like that’s what we were going to have to do. Stringing some hits together to put a run across the board just wasn’t going to happen.”

In fact, the Nationals — continuing their woeful start to the season offensively — never had more two runners on base at the same time. The only time they even had two base runners in an inning was the second when Morse reached with a single, but he was erased two batters later when Ivan Rodriguez reached on a fielder’s choice.

The Phillies faced no such dilemma. They had multiple runners in every inning after the second, but even with as hard as he was being hit, Hernandez had still only given up two runs through five innings. He escaped danger in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth helped by superb defense and timely strikeouts.

Still, Riggleman visited Hernandez on the mound twice during the outing before pulling him in the seventh. Hernandez clearly labored more Tuesday night than in his previous start, an eight-inning masterpiece against the Mets last week.

“I feel great [physically,]” Hernandez said. “I feel maybe better than the last time out. It’s a tough loss. I tried to keep the ballgame close, and it just did not happen today.”

Ultimately, Hernandez and the Nationals were felled by two triples that found their way to Werth’s corner of the field. The first off the bat of Hamels — the first of his career — that Werth made a leaping effort for against the right-field wall but came up empty; the second a slider that Jimmy Rollins sent sinking into the corne, a ball Werth bobbled picking up.

“The ball was just carrying so good today,” Riggleman said. “I don’t think any balls were hit that had a chance to be caught.”

By the time Werth, who finished 0-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base, struck out to leave only Adam LaRoche standing in the way of Hamels‘ complete game, the fans in Philadelphia had paid enough homage to the right fielder.

“Things are definitely different,” Werth said, now a member of a team that is 9-28 at Citizens Bank Park and has lost 30 of its past 40 games against the Phillies. “But I was glad it went the way it did. From here on out, whatever happens, I’ll definitely always remember that first at-bat.

“If I’m booed every day here for the rest of my career, I’ll take that as a compliment.”