- The Washington Times
Thursday, June 16, 2016

Jayson Werth had corralled his emotion and hair by the time he sat in his locker, though the result of Wednesday’s 12-inning game was still pulsing around stadium. Nationals manager Dusty Baker entered his press conference to chants of his name on his 67th birthday. Werth’s on-field postgame interview zoomed around the Internet, swear words included. The Nationals were gearing up for a flight to the West Coast after a 5-4 win instead of dreading the cross-country journey that would have been saddled with sadness.

Werth can fluctuate from a Porsche-driving, three-piece suit wearing bon vivant to the surly veteran in the back of the clubhouse. Other times he’s the shaggy philosopher, a past World Series winner set in a tussle with age and perception, not to mention fastballs and curveballs.

Since the season’s wee hours in Florida, he’s been pushing back at discussions about his age. It began in spring training and continued Wednesday after the 37-year-old’s second walk-off hit in four games bounced off the fence, sending the Chicago Cubs out of town with a series loss and Werth sprinting frantically into right field.

He understands baseball is an odd endeavor. The difference between close and far is subtle. Success is based on crippling math, numbers that would never be worthwhile in about any other endeavor.

“You’re playing a game where [if] you make an out seven out of the 10 times, you’re good,” Werth said. “So, you’re borderline delusional anyways.”

He said he never doubted that he can still hit. Not after a .211 batting average in April or the .235 to follow in May. Werth had noticed a “little leak” in his motion toward pitches, then tried to correct it.

“Those things are tough to fix on the fly,” Werth said. “Your at-bats pile up pretty quick on you and it’s hard to change a habit, a bad habit at that. One swing can change your season. I don’t know when that was or when I fixed that leak, but I felt like I’ve had it for a while now.”

June has been kind. He’s hit .342 in the first half of the month. Most telling is the leveling of his strikeouts and walks. He has 10 of each through 16 days.

It’s clear his swagger has returned with the resurrection of his average. Werth’s on-field interview included two swear words, a rebuttal to his critics (“kiss my [butt]”) and multiple fist-pumps toward an adoring crowd. He received the Gatorade dump, temporarily straightening his curly hair.

Werth did all this on Baker’s birthday, making it an improvement over last season’s celebration, when Baker out of baseball and fishing in Canada. They celebrated together up the first-base line, prompting Werth to tell a moderate fib.

“I high-fived and told him happy birthday on the field and told him that was for him,” Werth said. Don’t know if I meant it though.”

He laughed afterward. For a night, talking about someone else’s age was amusing. Even when it was his.

• Todd Dybas can be reached at tdybas@washingtontimes.com.

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