Jayson Werth has blossomed into Nats’ leader

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The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore has a fantastic article about Jayson Werth up on the website today, looking in depth at his transition from new guy to team leader. Kilgore discusses Werth’s off-beat personality, his stern suggestions to anybody and everybody on the team, and how the right fielder changed the culture both in terms of attitude and practice.

The numerous ideas that stuck became tangible symbols of Werth’s off-field impact. In the clubhouse kitchen, no longer does a cook make whatever players ask for. A chef trained in nutrition informs players how much sodium, fat or Vitamin A they should be eating. [snip]

Werth advocated for better equipment in the weight room, and Rizzo took the requests to ownership. The Lerners bought both a single and double isokinetic activation device for $4,500. Position players use the single to build core strength. Pitchers use the double to strengthen their shoulders, one of the most important precautionary measures they can take.

The Nationals also added a long press, the barbell system Olympic weightlifters use, for $600 at Werth’s urging. They already had kettle bells weighing 55, 65 and 75 pounds. Werth persuaded them to purchase a 100-pound kettle bell for $500.

Werth missed 75 games last season due to a fractured left wrist, but he was one of the Nationals’ more productive players when he was on the field. Along with changing the clubhouse culture, the 33-year-old posted a .300/.387/.440 slash line. He is entering the third year of his seven-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.