Sep 15, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
PHILADELPHIA — Jayson Werth, by all accounts, should have been on cloud nine Monday night. He had been on a tear at the plate over the last month, had just homered twice to lead the Nationals to victory and had done so in his old stomping grounds in front of booing Phillies fans.
Why, then, was the veteran outfielder so glum at the end of the night?
“It would feel great if we weren’t 9 1/2 games back,” he said. “I get the sense that it’s too little, too late. Anything can still happen, of course. But it’s been a tough go.”
It’s safe to say Werth won’t be looking back at the 2015 season with much fondness. Despite his late-summer surge, he might wind up with his worst offensive numbers in a decade. He missed 2 1/2 months with a fractured wrist. And the Nationals, of course, are going to fall well short of expectations, all but certain to lose the NL East to the Mets.
Werth had remained upbeat in recent weeks, insisting he still liked the Nationals’ chances as they finally got close to 100 percent healthy entering the stretch run. But after a miserable week that included a sweep at the hands of the Mets, followed by two lifeless losses to the Marlins, reality set in for the 36-year-old.
“I think about it a lot,” he said. “It’s disappointing. I look at it as opportunity lost. We had a lot going for us going into the season, and although it’s not over by any means … you just get the sense that we kind of let this one slip through our grasps a little bit. It’s unfortunate. It’s hard to swallow.”
On an individual level, Werth has been able to salvage his own season thanks to his recent surge at the plate. As recently as August 18, he was among the least-productive offensive players in the majors, owner of a .184 batting average, .261 on-base percentage, .270 slugging percentage and .531 OPS. But in 26 games since — coinciding with his move up to the top of the Nationals’ lineup — he’s hitting .296 with a .382 on-base percentage, .565 slugging percentage and .947 OPS.
And it all seemed to come together Monday night when Werth first launched a fifth-inning grand slam to give the Nationals a 6-2 lead, then added a solo shot in the 11th inning to ensure their victory.
Something about it all, though, felt wasted to Werth, who recognizes he may not get many more of these opportunities. About to conclude his fifth season with the Nationals, he knows the final two years of his contract are going to come as part of a changed roster, one that will lose several key free agents.
That makes this season sting even more.
“I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but most likely this team’s gonna be a lot different [next] year,” he said. “You play with these guys every day, and you come to work with these guys. You’re basically family, so you want to make the most of your opportunities. I feel like we definitely didn’t this year.”
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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