At three minutes past seven o' clock, Jayson Werth sent a Lance Lynn 3-2 pitch into the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen and into Washington D.C. sports history Thursday as the Washington Nationals staved off elimination, defeating the Cardinals 2-1 in game 4 of the NLDS and forcing a winner-take-all game 5 Friday night.
Lynn (0-1) knew it was gone the second it hit Werth's bat, as he pointed towards the Nationals dugout as he approached first base and raised his finger to the sky as he rounded it. Werth met his teammates at home plate, who mobbed him in celebration as the announced crowd of 44,392 went into a frenzy. The best-of-five series will conclude Friday night at Nationals Park with the winner advancing to the NLCS to face the San Francisco Giants.
The 3-2 pitch that Werth hit, was the 13th pitch of an at-bat that lasted six minutes, and was the final pitch thrown in a tightly contested game where both teams had great pitching all day. Nationals starter Ross Detwiler came through in a big way with his team's season on the line. Detwiler pitched six strong innings, giving up only one unearned run and three hits.
Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse was just as tough, if not tougher, as Detwiler. The Cardinals stud gave up only an Adam LaRoche solo homer in the 2nd inning and one other hit in seven innings of work while striking out five.
The Nationals took the early 1-0 lead off of LaRoche's homer to straight center field. But until Werth's winning shot, the Nationals were completely shutdown. How badly? The Nationals never had a runner in scoring position the entire game.
The do-or-die atmosphere was apparent from the beginning, from the crowd that hung on every pitch to manager Davey Johnson using game 2 starter Jordan Zimmermann in the seventh inning. Zimmermann had electric stuff as he struck out the side in the seventh inning.
Nationals relievers retired eight straight Cardinals via the strike out. Tyler Clippard struck out the side in the eighth, yielding one walk and closer Drew Storen (1-0) struck out the first two batters he faced before popping up Matt Carpenter to end the top of the ninth.
Some talk will certainly be focused on Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and his decision to go with Lynn, instead of his closer Jason Motte. "If we were at home, it would have been a very easy decision to bring in Motte," Matheny said when questioned after the game.
There was no bigger play however, then the last one. As Werth's ball landed in the Cardinals bullpen it assured that the Nationals magical season would continue for one more night, in a final game 5, with 20-game winner Gio Gonzalez on the mound.
On a team without any type of postseason experience to show for itself, it was the veteran Jayson Werth who showed them all what October baseball is all about.
Notes: This was the sixth game in postseason history in which each team had 3 hits or fewer. The crowd of 44,392 was the third biggest in Nationals Park history. 20 game winner Gio Gonzalez will face St. Louis' Adam Wainwright in game 5 Friday night.
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