Jayson Werth's walk-off homer in ninth puts Nationals in NLDS Game 5

Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth points to the Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth points to the Nationals dugout as he rounds the bases after hitting the game-winning solo home run in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the NLDS. (Oct. 11, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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WASHINGTON -- There is nothing quite like October baseball, as the people of the nation's capital finally are rediscovering. Of course, Nationals rightfielder Jayson Werth already knew that. He has played in two World Series and he watched the exciting games on television Wednesday night.

His team had just taken its second consecutive eight-run drubbing on Wednesday, but still he had not had enough.

"Baseball this time of year is the best time for sports. I love October baseball," Werth said, happy to have seen close friend and former Phillies teammate Raul Ibañez hit historic tying and winning home runs for the Yankees.

"I probably texted him 20 times last night congratulating him. That was awesome," he said, adding that Ibañez texted him back four times Thursday while Werth was on his way to the park for his own awesome moment.

Werth led off the bottom of the ninth with his own home run into the leftfield bullpen, on the 13th pitch of an at-bat against Cardinals reliever Lance Lynn, to give the Nationals a 2-1 win in Game 4 and bring new life to their improbable season.

Despite having looked all but gone after the two routs, the Nationals drew even in the Division Series and set up a deciding Game 5 Friday night at Nationals Park. It was the first win for the home side in a Washington-based postseason game since 1933, and it featured the best the Nationals had to offer.

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They got outstanding pitching from starter Ross Detwiler, the young lefthanded starter who grew up near St. Louis and got his chance to start in this series because of the Nationals' controversial decision to shut down phenom Stephen Strasburg. Detwiler allowed no earned runs in six innings.

Relievers Jordan Zimmermann (a starter making his first appearance out of the bullpen), Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen were even better. The first two struck out the side and the latter struck out two.

"They rose to the occasion. All of them were throwing harder than I've ever seen them throw," manager Davey Johnson said.

Also, the Nationals hung in there against stellar Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse (seven innings, two hits, one run).

Still, it all came down to Werth, which is pronounced "worth," which is how the Nationals look at him. He was the one big-ticket free agent signed by a club that is building with youth. He kept fouling off pitches from Lynn until he finally hit the kind of walk-off blast for which the city has been waiting 79 years.

"The pitch was down. Jayson went down and got it. I don't think it was a bad pitch at all," Detwiler said. "It was kind of a dream that you're in this spot, but that was one of the best moments of my life right there."

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, a Nationals lifer, added, "That was the coolest moment I've ever been a part of on the baseball field."

A team long known as a doormat actually kept its cool after two blowouts. Gio Gonzalez, who won 21 games in the regular season and will start Game 5 against Adam Wainwright, had said earlier Thursday, "I think what we have done is shock the world."

Johnson on Thursday brought up 1986 and the seemingly hopeless situation in Game 6 that turned into an unforgettable World Series win for his Mets. Four hours before the game, the manager said, "We don't feel like we're out of this by a long shot, believe me."

Werth had been the one to say after an 8-0 loss Wednesday, "I like our chances." Then he had gone home to watch Ibañez -- and come back to make his own amazing memory.

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"Both of those," Zimmerman said, "were pretty impressive feats."

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