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Road sweet home: Werth belts HR after mixup

Nationals DH slugs three-run first-inning homer after sprinting in from batting cages
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Jayson Werth's three-run home run in the first inning of Thursday's 13-1 victory over the Astros almost never happened. Because at about 1:11 p.m. ET, six minutes after the game began, he was still in the batting cage by the Nationals' complex.

The game was held at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, and Werth, who was the designated hitter, did not realize that it was technically a road game for the Nationals and that their partners in the facility, the Astros, were hosting. He was not aware until Brian Daubach, the hitting coach for Triple-A Syracuse, wondered why Werth was among the handful of players still in the cage.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Jayson Werth's three-run home run in the first inning of Thursday's 13-1 victory over the Astros almost never happened. Because at about 1:11 p.m. ET, six minutes after the game began, he was still in the batting cage by the Nationals' complex.

The game was held at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, and Werth, who was the designated hitter, did not realize that it was technically a road game for the Nationals and that their partners in the facility, the Astros, were hosting. He was not aware until Brian Daubach, the hitting coach for Triple-A Syracuse, wondered why Werth was among the handful of players still in the cage.

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"Hey, you know we're on the road, right?" Daubach asked.

"It was like pure panic," Werth recalled with a laugh.

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So, Werth grabbed his bat and bag and ran out of the cage. He sprinted across the agility fields on a sunny 86-degree day. Past the Major League clubhouse, weight room and training room. Through the long hallway where the Minor League clubhouse, weight room and training room are.

"I'm running down there and all I can think of is, 'They're going to have to pinch-hit for me, and I'm not going to get to play today,'" Werth said. "[Manager Dusty Baker] is going to be [upset] and I'm all totally ready to play."

Finally, Werth arrived in the dugout, out of breath and sweating. With Werth batting sixth in the order, No. 5 hitter Anthony Rendon was at the plate after the Nats had already plated a run. So Werth had to gather himself and head up to the on-deck circle.

And after Rendon singled to put two runners on, Werth hammered his first homer of the spring.

"Hey man, sprint up there every time," Baker said.

Werth normally uses his first few outings of Spring Training to track pitches and adjust to seeing live pitching again. But he feels good right now at the plate, and Baker marveled at how far ahead he is compared to last season, when he was coming off a broken wrist.

Werth can't explain why he feels good at the plate, but he hopes to keep it going. He hit slightly more during the offseason, but not significantly. He feels stronger being another year removed from the wrist injury, but he pointed out that it's only been two Spring Training games so far.

And with the team playing split-squad games Friday, Werth is likely to be in the lineup again. This time the Nationals will be here as the home team.

"I asked Daubach, 'How long were you sitting there thinking about that?'" Werth said. "He's like, 'For a while.'"

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Jayson Werth