WASHINGTON — At some point in mid-June, Jayson Werth decided to stop listening to everyone who told him to swing at the first pitch and be more aggressive.
The result is a 40-game on-base streak that has Werth setting the table for the Nationals’ potent offense. Since his streak began on June 20, he has increased his on-base percentage from .318 to .345. On Wednesday, Werth both got on base and drove in runs himself with a homer while the Nationals beat the Cleveland Indians 7-4.
Werth hit a three-run homer off Josh Tomlin in the second inning but takes more pride in getting on base than anything else.
“I’m an on-base guy that can drive in runs,” said Werth, who was 2 for 3 with a ground-rule double and a walk, scoring three runs and knocking three in. “I think I’ve silenced all those people that have told me over the years that that’s the way I should hit. Just getting back to being myself. I think that’s what it comes down to.”
Werth spearheaded an offensive outburst for the Nationals, who had scored three runs in their previous three games combined. Anthony Rendon also went 2 for 4 with a two-run double and Daniel Murphy and Wilson Ramos each had an RBI.
“It was even better that we scored some runs and our offense came alive to put us in that position,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We had some guys have some good days.”
It wasn’t the best day for starter Gio Gonzalez (8-9), who allowed four runs and seven hits, including a two-run home run by Francisco Lindor, and struck out five in five-plus innings. But Gonzalez got plenty of run support, and reliever Matt Belisle bailed him out by inducing a double play in the sixth and getting out of the inning unscathed.
Cleveland got three hits from Jose Ramirez, who extended his hitting streak to 14 games, but Tomlin (11-5) failed to get through the fifth inning for the second consecutive start. Tomlin allowed seven runs and eight hits and struck out four in four-plus innings.
“I make a mistake, I pay for it,” Tomlin said. “Doing that against a team like that, it’s tough to come back from.”
The Nationals are an imposing team even without reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper, but Baker said the recent futility was “a little bit past a blip.” He’d rather see struggles now than in September.
But Werth is doing anything but struggling. He has just 13 RBIs over his 40-game streak — which is three short of Ryan Zimmerman’s Nationals record — but has 30 walks in that time.
His mix of patience and power is what Washington needs from him now and down the stretch.
“He’s been around long enough to understand how to do almost anything in the order,” Baker said. “He’s a veteran. He struggled early. Glad to see him come to life.”
Indians: Manager Terry Francona returned after a health scare caused him to miss the series opener Tuesday. Francona, who has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms, complained of chest pain and had an elevated heart rate but reported feeling better by Wednesday. … Francona said RHP Tommy Hunter threw a simulated game Tuesday and was progressing well from a non-baseball injury.
Nationals: Harper missed his third consecutive game with a stiff neck. Baker said Harper’s neck was in a spasm and medical personnel hadn’t yet figured out how to alleviate it. … LHP Oliver Perez felt a pull in his back before throwing his first pitch but stayed in the game. Baker said he was being evaluated.
GOODWIN BREAKS THROUGH
Nationals outfielder Brian Goodwin made his first major league start and got his first hit with a single off Zach McAllister in the eighth. Fans gave him a standing ovation, giving backup catcher Pedro Severino a good laugh from the rail of the home dugout.
“Seeing some good pitches and putting some good swings on balls,” Goodwin said. “Finally seeing one go through was kind of like a relief for me.”
Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco passed his U.S. citizenship test last week, which was cause for celebration. Carrasco wore an Uncle Sam costume for the flight back to Cleveland, posing with thumbs up for the team’s Twitter account .
Indians: RHP Corey Kluber (11-8, 3.22 ERA) starts the series opener back in Cleveland against RHP Jhoulys Chacin (3-7, 5.27) and the Los Angeles Angels.
Nationals: After a day off, RHP Stephen Strasburg (15-2, 2.80) starts Friday against RHP Mike Foltynewicz (5-5, 4.37) and the last-place Atlanta Braves.
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