WASHINGTON — By various metrics — batting average, clutch hits, fan ire — Jayson Werth endured a rough 2011, the start of his $126 million, seven-year adventure with the Washington Nationals.
So everyone seemed pretty pleased — Werth flipping his bat, teammates mobbing him, the crowd that remained lauding him — when the outfielder delivered his first game-ending hit as a member of the Nationals, a bases-loaded single off Reds closer Sean Marshall in the bottom of the 13th inning Friday night that lifted Washington to a 2-1 comeback victory over Cincinnati.
Afterward, during an on-field interview, Werth thanked the spectators who'd stuck around through the 4-hour, 4-minute game.
"Fans are fans. They pay good money to come and watch us play, so they're entitled to yell and scream and boo and hiss and cheer and throw things," Werth said later. Then he paused for comic effect before adding: "Maybe not throw things."
Said Werth: "That was a long game on a Friday night. There are probably a few other places they could have been but they hung in there pretty good."
With their fourth consecutive victory, the NL East-leading Nationals improved to 6-2, their best start to a season since moving from Montreal to Washington in 2005.
When a reporter noted it was Werth's first walk-off hit with Washington, Werth said: "You want to be a part of those. That's what you play for. So hopefully that'll be the first of many."
After Marshall (0-1) got the first batter of the 13th on a groundout, Danny Espinosa reached with a broken-bat infield single. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche then walked.
"I didn't make the pitches I wanted. I walked those two batters. When you do that in a game, sometimes it comes back to bite you," Marshall said. "That's what it did."
It also brought up Werth, who delivered on a 1-2 pitch.
He hit only .232 with 58 RBIs last season, when manager Davey Johnson thinks Werth was "trying to spread himself thin ... bearing the burden of teammates" who were out injured, such as Zimmerman and LaRoche.
Whatever the reason, Werth drew the ire of some fans.
"There's more people that like him than don't like him," Zimmerman said. "I just think the people that don't like him are louder."
So far this year, Werth is hitting .303 with four RBIs.
Friday's run-scoring single "was big," Johnson said. "I like his frame of his mind. If he has the right frame of mind, he's going to have a great year."
Craig Stammen (2-0), Washington's sixth pitcher, earned the win by striking out three in the top of the 13th.
Stammen also earned the win in extra innings Thursday, when he struck out the side in the 10th with only 10 pitches as Washington beat Cincinnati 3-2 on a game-ending wild pitch.
"He's a bulldog," Johnson said.
The Reds have lost four of five, scoring a total of nine runs in that span.
Cincinnati finished with only five hits Friday, and the top two batters in the lineup — Drew Stubbs and Wilson Valdez — were a combined 0 for 12 with four strikeouts. Their 4-5 hitters, Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce (who left in the 11th), were 0 for 10 with a walk.
"The guys don't like it," manager Dusty Baker said.
Still, the Reds did lead 1-0 heading into the eighth. That's when Xavier Nady tied it with the fifth pinch-hit homer of his career, off reliever Bill Bray.
"It's no secret: I love my bench this year compared to last year," Johnson said.
Until then, Reds starter Bronson Arroyo was having an excellent night, allowing three hits over 7 1-3 scoreless innings, plus helping himself with a sacrifice fly that drove in a run to put the visitors ahead in the fifth.
But when the Nationals sent pinch-hitter Chad Tracy to bat with nobody on and one out in the eighth, Baker lifted Arroyo after 94 pitches and switched to the left-handed Bray. Johnson countered with Nady, who drove a 1-0 pitch just beyond the reach of leaping left fielder Ryan Ludwick.
As the ball bounced around the visitors' bullpen, Ludwick put his hands on his hips, shook his head and chomped on his gum.
That meant Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann avoided a second consecutive hard-luck loss to start the season. The righty nearly matched Arroyo, giving up one run and three hits in seven innings, and Zimmermann's ERA is at 1.29.
"It would have been tragic," Johnson said, "for him to lose that ballgame."
NOTES: Reds 2B Brandon Phillips, who missed the previous three games with a left hamstring injury, pinch hit in the 13th. ... Johnson said OF Brett Carroll will be designated for assignment so CF Rick Ankiel can come off the 15-day DL for Saturday's game.
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