By HOWARD FENDRICH, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hours before Jayson Werth's game-ending homer on a 13-pitch at-bat extended the Washington Nationals' surprising season, before a bullpen trio got eight consecutive outs via strikeouts, before Ian Desmond's acrobatic catch, a guy who isn't even on the playoff roster fired up a team facing elimination against the defending champs.
Mark DeRosa, a spare-part utility player who made his major league debut 14 years ago, grabbed the microphone of his clubhouse karaoke machine and quoted from Roosevelt's rousing 1910 "Man in the Arena" speech — aiming to make the Nationals think they could beat the St. Louis Cardinals and set up a Game 5 in their NL division series Friday night.
"Our backs were against the wall. I wanted to say something that brought us together, a band of brothers who go out fighting and see what happens," DeRosa explained.
Worked wonders, apparently.
"Epic," was closer Drew Storen's description. "It's the stuff movies are made of."
So was the scene in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 4, when Washington beat St. Louis 2-1 to tie their NLDS.
Joyous, bouncing teammates waiting to greet him, the red-clad crowd raucous as can be, Werth yanked off his batting helmet with two hands and thrust it a dozen or more feet overhead before leaping onto home plate after his big hit.
A little less than two years ago, the Nationals showered Werth with millions, persuading him to come show them how to win. With one swing of his black bat at dusk Thursday, Werth wiped away whatever disappointments marred his early days in D.C.
Werth led off the bottom of the ninth inning against reliever Lance Lynn by fouling off pitch after pitch before sending the ball beyond the wall in left field, giving the Nationals a tense victory.
"That's the way that game should have ended: Jayson Werth hitting a home run," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He has not hit that many this year. ... Unbelievable. Great effort on his part."
The best-of-five series will end Friday night in Washington, with the winner advancing to face the San Francisco Giants in the NL championship series. The starters are a rematch of Game 1, which Washington won 3-2: Gio Gonzalez on the mound for the NL East champion Nationals, and Adam Wainwright for the wild-card Cardinals.
"It's what you play all season for, and what you work out all winter for, and what you get to spring training early for," Werth said. "We have a chance tomorrow to take that next step. I know my teammates will be ready. And the city will, too."
The homer was Werth's first of the series, the 14th of his postseason career. He won the 2008 World Series and a string of division titles with the Philadelphia Phillies, then moved to Washington before last season as a free agent on a $126 million, seven-year contract that stunned much of baseball.
He managed to hit only five homers with 31 RBIs in 2012, missing 75 games because of a broken left wrist. Last year, his first in Washington, Werth hit .232 with 58 RBIs, and there was grumbling about his worth.
That vanished when Werth circled the bases, raising his right index finger in a "No. 1" gesture, while the announced attendance of 44,392 roared, and other Nationals raced out of their dugout to greet him.
"I'm just happy that these fans got to see it, because obviously he had a rough year last year, and he got hurt this year, and I don't think the fans realize how good of a player Jason is," Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "For him to have a moment like this in front of the home fans, and in front of this atmosphere, I couldn't be happier for him. He deserves it."
Werth's arrival certainly coincided with a quick turnaround: The Nationals lost 100 games in 2008 and 2009, but led the majors with 98 wins this year.
"I knew that a winning ballclub would bring the fans," Werth said, "and here we are, two years later, and they're showing up and it's awesome."
According to DeRosa, Werth heard the pregame oration and came running to hear.
"I feel like if they're going to keep me around and keep me here, there's a reason for it," DeRosa said. "I've been in these games. I've grinded."
Roosevelt's speech, which he gave in Paris, includes the lines: "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood ... and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."