WASHINGTON -- As he tried to make sense of it all, with tears forming in his eyes, Jayson Werth kept coming back to one phrase.
"I can't believe we lost that game," he repeated after the Nationals' heartbreaking 9-8 loss to the Cubs on Thursday in the decisive Game 5 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile.
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This was perhaps Werth's final game with the Nationals. He is at the end of a seven-year contract he signed before the 2011 season. From the fact that his free-agent signing aligned with the team's ascent, to his walk-off home run in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS, to the memorable moments in postgame interviews, he became a fan favorite.
Werth had planned on playing more games at Nationals Park. He wanted to bring a World Series to Washington, a place he has started referring to as his home. He knew this was the most talented of the teams that have won four division titles in six seasons.
And yet, he sat at his locker after 1:30 a.m. ET, still trying to process what happened.
"Seriously, I'm still trying to wrap my head around this one," Werth said. "I just keep thinking of different stuff that was happening that was off the wall. I'll probably go watch the whole game back, relive it, torture myself.
"It felt like it didn't matter what happened, I felt like we were going to win. That was the feeling across the team and across the board. It's crazy to think that we didn't win that game."
Werth has endured some ups and downs in Washington. At times he was hurt and at times was not as productive as he would have liked. But he was the unquestioned leader of the clubhouse and in many ways the club's conscience.
There were questions about whether he should start Game 5. Manager Dusty Baker said he considered sitting Werth, but stuck with him in left field because of his ability to deliver in big games. At the plate it paid off, as Werth reached base four times with a single, double and a pair of walks. In the field, however, Werth lost a line drive in the lights that led to a Cubs run. In his seven seasons playing the outfield for Washington, he estimated that he had lost fewer than 10 balls in the lights.
Werth was still kicking himself for that one, especially after he watched the video and saw how close he came to catching it. They were so many moments, he said, so many close calls and what ifs from Thursday's game that he'll relive in his head.
But he had few answers for this game, which he knows very well could be have been his farewell to Washington. No one has officially closed the door, but Werth will turn 39 next season and the Nationals are loaded with young outfielders throughout their system, including the Major League roster.
"I'm proud of what we've accomplished here, this place has come a long way in seven years," Werth said. "No regrets. We gave it all we had. I know I gave everything I had, left it all out there. I'm proud to call myself a National. Before I came here, I don't know if anybody would've said that. Even so, this one's tough to take. We had opportunities and you just still think, man, you can't believe it's over.
"Maybe as time goes on, I'm sure we'll look back and think about good times and all the accomplishments that we did. This is a great club. These guys are great players. I'm proud to be teammates with these guys and go to war every day with these guys. I can't believe that we lost that game. It's just tough to swallow."