WASHINGTON — A little less than two years ago, the Nationals showered Jayson Werth with millions of dollars, persuading him to come and show them how to win. Thursday, with one swing of his bat, Werth delivered a walkoff homer to extend his club's surprising season and dull whatever disappointments have marred his days in D.C.
Werth led off the bottom of the ninth with a 13-pitch at-bat against reliever Lance Lynn that ended with the ball landing beyond the wall in left, giving the Nationals a tense 2-1 victory over the Cardinals and forcing a deciding Game 5 in their National League Division Series.
"That's the way that game should have ended: Jayson Werth hitting a home run," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He has not hit that many this year. … Great effort on his part."
The best-of-five series ends tonight, with the winner advancing to face the Giants in the league championship series. Tonight's starters will provide a rematch of Game 1, which Washington won, with the Nationals' Gio Gonzalez facing Adam Wainwright.
"It's what you play all season for, and what you work out all winter for, and what you get to spring training early for," Werth said. "We have a chance (today) to take that next step. I know my teammates will be ready. And the city will, too."
The homer was Werth's first of the series and the 14th of his postseason career. He won the 2008 World Series and a string of division titles with the Phillies, then moved to Washington before last season as a free agent on a $126 million, seven-year contract. He hit only five homers and 31 RBIs in 2012, missing 75 games because of a broken left wrist. Last year Werth hit .232 with 58 RBIs.
Werth's shot provided a sudden end to a contest filled with tremendous pitching. Each team had only three hits.
Lynn, usually a starter for St. Louis but a reliever in these playoffs, was making his third appearance of this series.
"Heater. He beat me," Lynn said. "I've had success this series with him, and you know, everyone in the stadium knew what I was throwing there. It was just a matter of time. I was challenging him, and he was up for it."