By Sarah Berkowitz
Former Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth can’t catch a break.
After helping to lead the Phils to the 2008 World Series and excelling at the plate and in the field with his rifle arm, Werth took the big free agent bucks after the 2010 season and became a member of the Washington Nationals.
And now comes word that Werth will be sidelined until around August with a broken left wrist.
Despite the loss, the Nationals still have enough. They’ve taken one hit after another and they’re still atop the National League East, and seem likely to stay there.
They learned that Werth has two broken bones in his left wrist and will be out around three months. This is the team that hasn’t gotten a single at-bat from its best player in 2014 — third baseman Anthony Rendon. Also, one of the six aces, Stephen Strasburg, has a 6.50 ERA. Another, Doug Fister, is on the disabled list. Leadoff man Denard Span and reliever Casey Janssen began the season on the DL.
What difference has it made? On April 27, the Nats were 7-13 and eight games out of first place in the NL East. At the time, their defense was lousy, everything else mediocre. And then they rallied from a 9-1 deficit to win 13-12 in Atlanta.
That night, Max Scherzer doused hero Dan Uggla with chocolate syrup, and a team that was playing like it had the weight of the world on its shoulders took off. The Nationals are 21-6 since and have climbed from last place to first. Maybe they just needed a spark and maybe that game was it.
Or maybe they needed Bryce Harper to become the best player on earth, which he is at the moment.
In these 27 games, Harper is hitting .380 with eight doubles, a triple and 13 home runs. He has a 1.417 OPS, which borders on incomprehensible. Yes, one great player can change everything.
Others have contributed as well, including Michael Taylor and Yunel Escobar andTanner Roark. Roark was sent to the bullpen after the offseason signing of Scherzer, but in his first start of the season on Monday, he allowed one run in five innings to beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
The Nats likely will go as far as their main guys — Harper, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, shortstop Ian Desmond and those starters — take them, but they’re a reminder that teams that have special seasons always get contributions from places they might not have expected.
Here’s the thing to remember about the Nationals: On Opening Day, they were widely considered baseball’s deepest and most talented team. That assessment didn’t stop with 25 players, because seasons never play out that way. Last season, Major League teams used an average of 10 starting pitchers, so you never know.