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“And at the plate, obviously, he has the patience to be a leadoff hitter. He takes a lot of pitches, which is something as you hit lower in the lineup, you’d rather see guys swinging at pitches,” said Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, Werth’s teammate for four seasons. “But he’s had success doing it his way. By his natural approach to the plate, leading off shouldn’t be a problem. But it’s a bonus because he really has true power.”

Moving up the lineup, Werth sacrificed plenty of power. “The strength of my wrist of all that was an issue,” he said, but he’s also trying to accomplish different things than if he was batting cleanup.

His five home runs are his fewest since 2007, though Werth has appeared in just 80 games. Hitting .297, his versatility has been on full display.

Jayson has been a leadoff hitter all the way to cleanup, a guy that’s expected to drive in runs,” Phillies outfielder John Mayberry Jr. said. “I think that it just kind of points to his skill set, that’s he’s able to do what a lot of different situations call for.”

An ideal fit

Upon signing with the Nationals, many figured this situation called for Werth to be a mid-lineup force. As he stood in the glow of the Nationals’ NL East-clinching celebration, Werth conceded signing in Washington was a gamble: He was taking on a lot of pressure, stepping out of Utley’s and Howard’s shadows to be the man and a big part of making this team a winner.

And while Nix might be right that Werth can stand out as a star, his fit atop this balanced, powerful Nationals lineup has been ideal.

“After his injuries, obviously, with guys around him, you got Harper coming up, you have guys to push you and guys that you push and you look forward to that,” Rollins said. “Every time you go out there, ‘What can I do to help my team today?’ As opposed to ‘It’s all on me, if I don’t do it, then we don’t win.’

“Mentally, it makes a huge difference. It makes a difference on the field, in the numbers, the way your teammates look at you, the way you feel about them and also your manager feels that much better about you when he knows that everything has to come down to you, but if you struggle, we got this guy who can pick you up today, but you’re still going to be a big part and you should know that.”

Werth does know that. There’s nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to being an elite leadoff hitter on a playoff team.

Rollins, slid into a similar spot by Manuel a few years ago, understands the difference in mindset.

“Having power in the leadoff spot is a bonus, but it’s more so knowing that you’re leading your team through the fire,” Rollins said. “You’re the first one, you can come back [and say], ‘Hey, he’s pretty good today, the umpire’s zone is this,’ kind of set the attitude and things of that nature. … You’re counted upon to be that guy that gets it going for the team.”

Werth looks comfortable as the player who gets it going for the Nationals, a spark plug at the plate and on the base paths. He enjoys the nuances of leading off, and he’s invaluable to a team that searched long and hard in recent years for a legitimate, consistent leadoff man.

“It’s valuable for the club,” Nix said. “They’re fortunate that they have other guys hitting for power and driving in runs where he can get on base and be the guy being driven in right now. But he can also be a run producer, too.”

Maybe next year, when Werth’s wrist is 100 percent and he could put some more pop back into his swing. As the Nationals open the postseason this weekend, it’s clear that Werth is no longer mired in the middle of the lineup like last season.

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