WASHINGTON — Joyous, bouncing teammates waiting to greet him at home, the red-clad crowd raucous as can be, Jayson Werth yanked off his red batting helmet with two hands and thrust it a dozen or more feet overhead.
A little less than two years ago, the Washington Nationals showered Werth with millions, persuading him to come show them how to win. On Thursday night, with one swing of his black bat, Werth delivered a game-ending homer to extend his club’s surprising season and wipe away whatever disappointments marred his days in D.C.
Werth led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a 13-pitch at-bat against reliever Lance Lynn that ended with the ball landing beyond the wall in left field, giving the Nationals a tense 2-1 victory over the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals and forcing a deciding Game 5 in their NL division series.
“That’s the way that game should have ended: Jayson Werth hitting a home run,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “He has not hit that many this year. ... Unbelievable. Great effort on his part.”
The best-of-five series will end tonight in Washington, with the winner advancing to face the San Francisco Giants in the NL championship series.
Orioles 2, Yankees 1: With midnight approaching, the Baltimore Orioles’ bats awoke for one more improbable rally.
Now they have a last shot to finally overtake the New York Yankees.
J.J. Hardy hit an RBI double in the 13th inning and Baltimore bounced back from a demoralizing loss to outlast the Yankees 2-1 Thursday night, forcing a deciding Game 5 in the AL division series.
After splitting 22 games this year, it all comes down this: a winner-take-all game for a spot in the AL championship series.
Game 1 winner CC Sabathia was set to pitch the deciding game for the Yankees. Orioles manager Buck Showalter had not announced his starter.
The Orioles were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position until Hardy doubled off David Phelps with one out to score Manny Machado. Phelps had relieved in the 12th after Joba Chamberlain was hit by a flying broken bat, forcing him to leave with a bruised right elbow.
Giants 6, Reds 4: Buster Posey hit the third grand slam in Giants postseason history on Thursday, and San Francisco pulled off an unprecedented revival, moving into the championship series with a 6-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
They’ll play either Washington or St. Louis for the NL pennant starting Sunday.
“We could go up against anybody at any time,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “Being down 2-0 and coming back and winning three at their place, it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
The Giants became only the eighth team to win a five-game playoff series after falling behind 2-0. Major League Baseball’s changed playoff format this season allowed them to become the first to take a best-of-five by winning the last three on the road.
With one swing, Posey made it possible.
“I don’t think anybody gave up,” he said.
Posey’s second career grand slam off Mat Latos put the Giants up 6-0 in the fifth and sparked a joyous scrum in the San Francisco dugout. The ball smacked off the front of the upper deck in left field, just above Latos’ name on the video board.
Tigers 6, Athletics 0: Justin Verlander struck out 11 in a four-hitter to send the Detroit Tigers back to the AL championship series, beating the Oakland Athletics 6-0 in the decisive Game 5 of their division series Thursday night.
After squandering two chances to clinch the series, including blowing a two-run ninth-inning lead in Game 4, Verlander became Detroit’s ultimate closer.
Verlander, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP, was so sharp nobody in the bullpen ever got up to throw. He struck out 22 in his wins on both ends of this nail-biting series.