You might not guess it by looking at him, but Jayson Werth is a very good base runner. The 34-year-old veteran has stolen 37 bases in 43 attempts in three somewhat injury-plagued seasons with the Nationals. In his prime with the Phillies, under the tutelage of first base coach Davey Lopes, Werth stole 60 bases in 68 attempts. As a result, he ranks fourth all-time in stolen base success rate at 87 percent, according to Baseball Reference.
With that said, it should come as no surprise that Werth is happy about manager Matt Williams’ intent to have his team be more aggressive on the bases. Via James Wagner of the Washington Post:
“The key to stealing bases is being aggressive,” Werth said. “We’re where we need to be. This will be the first year that it’s like this.”
Werth also believes the Nationals could thrive under this new way of thinking about running. The Nationals coaches have freed up players to make reads on their own and have given veterans green lights to decide when to run. Players can use their instincts instead of relying on signs.
“That’s the only way to steal bases,” Werth said. “That’s how base stealers steal bases. That’s how guys become great base stealers. You don’t become a good base stealer by getting steal signs and stealing. That’s when you get thrown out. Those philosophies are right now. I’m really happy about that.”
Last season, Werth was one of four Nationals to reach double-digits in stolen bases, along with Bryce Harper, Denard Span, and Ian Desmond. Recent free agent signee Nate McLouth could join them as well.
The Yankees are facing a convoluted path to the postseason, and they didn’t do themselves any favors after Todd Frazier fell for Ryan Goins‘ hidden ball trick in the third inning of Friday’s series opener. With one out and Frazier on second base, Jacoby Ellsbury skied a deep fly ball to right field, where it was caught by Jose Bautista just shy of the warning track and tossed back to Goins at second. Goins faked the throw to Marco Estrada, then sneakily (or not so sneakily, depending on your vantage point) gloved the ball and caught Frazier off the bag for the third out.
Of course, it helped that Frazier’s back was turned during the throw, so Goins’ fake-out may not have been as obvious as it was when the Yankees reviewed the tape several minutes later.
Goins earned another spot on the highlight reel in the sixth inning, mashing his second grand slam of the season while Frazier — and the rest of the Yankees’ offense, sans one home-run-record-slaying Aaron Judge — scrambled to catch up. The Yankees currently trail the Blue Jays 8-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, and will need to pull off a comeback (and hope the Astros and Athletics clinch their respective games) before they can lay claim to a playoff spot.
The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.
Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.
With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.