WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jayson Werth drilled a ninth-inning, walk-off home run to lead the Washington Nationals to a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday and set up one-game showdown in the National League Division Series.
On the 13th pitch of his at-bat, Werth lined a shot off reliever Lance Lynn into the Cardinals’ bullpen in left field to touch off a Mardi Gras-type celebration for the 44,392 at Nationals Park.
With the best-of-five series tied 2-2, Washington will host the Cardinals on Friday for the right to face the San Francisco Giants in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
Werth said he was inspired by Raul Ibanez’s two home runs -- one a game-saver in the ninth inning and the other a game-winner in the 12th -- for the New York Yankees in Wednesday’s 3-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
“I was sitting at home and watching the Yankee game, and I saw what Raul did, and I probably texted him 20 times last night congratulating him, and that was awesome,” said Werth.
“You know, here we are a day later and I got an opportunity and came through.”
As Werth rounded the bases, he tossed his helmet into the air and jumped as high as he could onto the plate. He was then mobbed by his team mates amid a raucous celebration.
Washington manager Davey Johnson was thrilled for Werth.
”He’s a remarkable guy,“ said Johnson. ”He can force a pitcher to throw a lot of pitches. That’s the way that game should have ended. Jayson Werth hitting a home run.
“He has not hit that many this year. What was it, a 13, 14‑pitch at‑bat, something like that? It was unbelievable. Great effort on his part.”
The Nationals took a 1-0 lead in the second on a homer by Adam LaRoche but the Cardinals evened it up the next inning on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Beltran, an unearned run due to an error on a routine grounder by shortstop Ian Desmond.
Each team had only three hits and, other than LaRoche’s homer, the Nationals did not have a runner reach second base all game.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was confident his club could shake off the loss for Friday’s game.
“We’ve had a very large amount of heartbreakers this year, and that’s really been used to develop the character of this team and its resiliency,” he said.
“These guys realize that we’ve got an opportunity to come back and play another game. They do shed it pretty quick. So it’s a tough one, but we’re still alive to play another game.”
Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez will face the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright in Friday’s series finale at 8:37 p.m. EDT (0037).
Editing by Frank Pingue