Outfielder provides spark in first game since May

It was as if Jayson Werth never left.

The Nationals' outfielder missed 75 games thanks to a broken left wrist suffered May 6. He left a game against the Philadelphia Phillies that night with ace pitcher Cole Hamels on the mound. Werth finally returned from his long absence on Thursday night with Hamels and the Phillies again waiting with a three-game sweep in the balance at Nationals Park.

Werth contributed with an RBI groundout, a single and a walk. Starting pitcher Ross Detwiler did the rest with seven innings of shutout ball, retiring the final 14 batters he faced in an eventual 3-0 victory. Washington (62-42) salvaged the series finale after consecutive losses.

Werth strode to the plate to a warm ovation from the home crowd in the second inning and promptly delivered a single to left field. That followed a long home run to right by teammate Adam LaRoche. Those two teamed up again in the third. LaRoche smacked a single to center to drive home Ryan Zimmerman. Werth's RBI grounder to second base then put the Nats ahead 3-0.

"Like I never missed a step. It was good," Werth said. "Those minor league fields are kind of spongy. So it was good to get back on a hard surface."

Werth played a full nine-inning game on his recent minor league rehab assignment for the first time Wednesday at Single-A Potomac. He took batting practice at Nationals Park on Wednesday afternoon, which manager Davey Johnson called outstanding, received treatment on his wrist and figured to continue that process Thursday. But Johnson received a phone call around midnight from general manager Mike Rizzo.

"He's ready," Rizzo said. That was all Johnson needed to hear. Werth was added to the active roster, and reliever Henry Rodriguez was put on the 15-day disabled list with a sore back. Just like that the Nats had their whole outfield, including rookie Bryce Harper and left fielder Michael Morse, together for the first time all season. Werth started in center field, and Harper moved to right.

"We've done a great job with guys stepping in all season," Werth said. "Even now with [shortstop Ian Desmond] down, [Danny Espinosa] is playing great. That's what great teams do. This team's got a lot of depth."

Said Johnson: "[Werth is] a character. He'll be on me. I kind of missed that. He's such a gifted athlete. It's great to have him back."

Having Detwiler produce again wasn't bad, either. The lefty lowered his ERA from 3.24 to 3.02. He now has pitched seven full innings in three of his last four starts and has the second-lowest ERA on the team behind Jordan Zimmermann (2.28 ERA) -- the National League pitcher of the month for July.

Detwiler received some help in the second inning when Michael Martinez singled with runners at first and second and one out. But Harper rifled a throw to catcher Sandy Leon, who easily tagged out John Mayberry Jr. trying to score. Detwiler also escaped a first-and-second, one-out jam in the third inning and was never in trouble again.

"This is a tough team to beat three times in a row," Detwiler said. "We let the first two get away, but we knew we were going to win this one."