Werth's walk-off seals seventh straight win

Werth's walk-off seals seventh straight win

PHILADELPHIA -- Jayson Werth put both hands on his helmet, launched it skyward and jumped onto home plate.

His teammates mobbed him.

The crowd roared.

Harry Kalas sang.

And somewhere between New York and Philadelphia, the Atlanta Braves, who just finished a series against the New York Mets at Citi Field, wondered what the heck had just happened? The Phillies overcame a three-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday at Citizens Bank Park to beat the Washington Nationals, 7-6, and maintain their three-game lead over the Braves in the National League East with 12 games to play.

The Phillies and Braves open a critical three-game series Monday. The Phillies have Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt lined up to face Atlanta. The Braves counter with Jair Jurrjens, Mike Minor and Tommy Hanson.

"I definitely don't know what they're thinking, but I do know it was a good win for us," said Werth, whose two-run homer to center field won the game. "It's just another testament of this team, not giving up. You can't count us out."

Werth paused.

"It seemed like some people left there," he said with a smile. "I don't know why you're leaving."

Some fans left before the ninth-inning heroics, which is a no-no. The Phillies have enjoyed several walk-off victories this season. They also are 41-15 since a July 21 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals and 19-4 since the Houston Astros swept them in a four-game series in August.

They have been nearly unbeatable, even when it looks bleak, which is why the Phillies are confident entering Monday night's opener between Hamels and Jurrjens.

"This is a big series," Werth said of this week's matchup against Atlanta. "No doubt about it. We hold all the cards. We're up three games. We play the Braves six times (in the final 12 games). We've got a chance right here, especially at home in front of our fans. Hopefully we'll have some rally towels going tomorrow. It should be fun, but obviously we've got a chance to create some distance and get this thing to where we want it."

Placido Polanco hit a leadoff single against Nationals closer Drew Storen to start the ninth. Chase Utley followed with a double to put runners on second and third with nobody out. Ryan Howard then hit a single to right-center field to score both runners to make it a one-run game.

Werth followed with an eight-pitch at-bat. He fouled off a 3-1 fastball that probably would have been ball four. He fouled off two more pitches -- a slider and fastball -- before he crushed a 94-mph fastball to center field.

"Werth put a good swing on it," Storen said. "I threw a 3-2 slider that he fouled off. It was a good pitch. I was going to try to attack him with my fastball. It caught a little too much of the plate, especially his barrel."

"It was a super at-bat," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

The ball landed over the fence, above the 409-foot marker.

"I knew I hit it good," Werth said. "It gets iffy out there with how the corner shoots back. If you probably could have asked me where it was going when I hit, it was probably right there. Just over the fence."

Werth went 3-for-5 with one homer and three RBIs. He has hit .360 (9-for-25) with four homers and 10 RBIs in his past six games and has hit .333 (6-for-18) with runners in scoring position since Sept. 5.

That is a marked improvement. Werth entered Sunday hitting just .172 with runners in scoring position.

"About a week ago, I was watching some old film and noticed something," Werth said. "I've been working on that and trying to stay through the ball. It's been working so I'm going to stick with it."

As much as Phillies fans enjoyed the victory, they might have enjoyed finding out how the Braves learned the Phillies had won even more.

TV? Smartphone?

Text message? Phone call?

"They had us kind of dead in the water," Howard said of the Nationals. "Polly got a hit, Chase got a hit, we kind of got life from there."

The Phillies hope it carries into the Braves series. If they win two of three against Atlanta, they will have a four-game lead with just nine games to play. Even if the Phillies would finish 4-5, the Braves would have to finish 8-1 just to tie.

It would have been a different story if the Phillies had lost Sunday to cut their lead to two games. Instead they seized the moment.

"I think in the ninth the moment arrived," Manuel said.

And Werth crushed it.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.