WASHINGTON -- The Nationals continue to show their fight on the diamond while having good luck at the same time. Jayson Werth's RBI single in the bottom of the 13th inning gave the Nationals a 2-1 victory over the Reds at Nationals Park on Friday the 13th.
With the bases loaded, one out and Reds reliever Sean Marshall on the mound, Werth swung at a 1-2 pitch and singled up the middle, scoring Danny Espinosa. It marked the second straight game in which the Nationals won in extra innings, and the first walk-off hit for Werth since joining the team prior to the 2011 season.
"That was good," Werth said. "We were out there for a long time. You play that long and not get a win, that would hurt. We are lucky to get the win. We have another game tomorrow, the next day and the day after that. Hopefully, we'll keep winning."
Said Marshall, "I didn't make the pitches I wanted. I walked [Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche]. When you do that late in the game, they come back to bite you. That's what it did."
Last year was a rough one for Werth after signing a seven-year, $126 million contract. He hit .232 with 20 home runs and 58 RBIs. Manager Davey Johnson insisted that Werth had a down year because he was trying to take on too many roles -- a leader to the young players such as Espinosa and Ian Desmond, and trying to help carry the team without Zimmerman and LaRoche, who missed a lot of time because of injuries.
With everyone healthy and Johnson at the helm, it's time for Werth to take care of himself, and he is doing just that. Entering Saturday's action against Cincinnati, Werth is hitting. 303 with four RBIs.
"He is actually in a good frame of mind. He has been swinging the bat well. Sometimes, he makes it tough on himself, demanding too much," Johnson said about Werth. "I think he is going to have a great year. He had a much better spring. I liked the way he swung the bat in the spring. He is still trying to find his timing. He is in and out of it.
"If he is in the right frame of mind, he is going to have a great year, and he is in a good frame of mind. He is one heck of an athlete."
With the victory, the Nationals have won four straight games and improved their record to 6-2, their best start since moving to Washington after the 2004 season.
For a time, Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo proved to be too much for the Nationals. He pitched 7 1/3 innings without allowing a run, giving up three hits.
The Nationals had runners in scoring position three times with one out, but couldn't get the runners home. Their biggest chance to score a run against Arroyo occurred in the fourth inning. With one out, Zimmerman doubled over Drew Stubbs' head in center field, but LaRoche and Werth flied out to left field to end the threat.
Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann had another superb outing, pitching seven innings and allowing one run on three hits. Zimmermann had a tough time getting Arroyo out at the plate. Arroyo had a single in the third inning and drove in the game's first run in the fifth inning with a sacrifice fly to center field.
"I was tickled to death that we got [Zimmermann] off the hook. He pitched another great ballgame," Johnson said. "It would have been tragic for him to lose that ballgame. I would hate for him to be 0-2 after pitching two great ballgames."
But Zimmermann ended up with a no-decision, as the Nationals would tie the score in the eighth inning off left-hander Bill Bray. Xavier Nady, pinch-hitting for Chad Tracy, hit a solo home run over the left-field wall. It was Nady's fifth pinch-hit homer of his career.
"You always anticipate that you always can have an opportunity to have that at-bat," Nady said. "I knew that if Tracy would pinch-hit there, maybe they would bring in the lefty, and that would be my at-bat."
Asked if he knew the ball was gone the moment he hit it, Nady said, "Not the way this park is playing right now. I hit it good, I hit it high. But to tell you the truth, I didn't have a clue."
And that is when the bullpen took over. Ryan Mattheus, Henry Rodriguez, Brad Lidge, Tom Gorzelanny and Craig Stammen pitched a combined six shutout innings and struck out seven batters. Gorzelanny was the only one to pitch more than one inning.
"We just went out there and tried to do our job -- to give us every chance to get our guys up," Gorzelanny said. "The way the guys battled, we all expect it from each other. We all try to feed off each other. We showed that we definitely have a good bullpen down there. We go out there and keep us in the game."
It seems hard to believe, but this year's bullpen appears to much better than last year's squad, and last year's bullpen was among the best in the game. Adding a player like Lidge has made the bullpen even better.
"We are still getting experience out there. Every time we go out there, you learn something different," Gorzelanny said. "We have Tyler [Clippard] out there, Sean [Burnett], we have Brad Lidge out there. We have experienced guys out there.
"With the bullpen, it was an easier adjustment for us -- being older guys going out there [and doing what we are supposed to do]. That's how we approach each outing. It's definitely good to have that presence out there, the confidence that we all have being out there to perform."
The Nationals were able perform, bringing good fortune on Friday the 13th.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.