Phils' Werth has emerged as a star (cont.)
Again in the seventh, facing reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, Werth took a slider for a strike and then a fastball for a strike. Down 0-2, he fouled off a tough high, inside fastball on the third pitch, and on Kuo's fourth pitch, the pitcher made his mistake, leaving a knee-high fastball down the middle of the plate. Werth pulled the ball just left of center field for another home run, his fifth of the playoffs.
That's the patience Werth has shown throughout his career, particularly this season when he led the majors in seeing 4.51 pitches per plate appearance.
Selectivity was reinforced by one of his hitting coaches in the Dodgers' minor-league system, former pro Tim Wallach, who really emphasized making the starting pitcher work hard. To Wallach, the goal was always to face the soft spot of the bullpen, usually that sixth- or seventh-inning reliever who served as a bridge from starter to setup man and closer.
"I may have always just had it," Werth says of his plate discipline. "I can remember being a kid -- and I come from a baseball family -- and my grandfather, stepdad and everybody were always saying to be more aggressive and to look for a pitch early in the count and drive it. That's never been what I've done."
Three of his close family members -- his stepfather, Dennis Werth, his grandfather, Ducky Schofield, and his uncle, Dick Schofield, all played in the majors -- and so Jayson Werth was inundated by baseball stories and afforded opportunities at an early age. His stepfather built him a backyard batting cage with a pitching machine when he was eight years old. Werth would hit and hit and hit some more.
"You've got to train the eye by seeing pitches," Werth says. "Because I had a pitching machine when I was eight years old, maybe the amount of looks that I got at an early age gave me some kind of training that I've been able to see pitches well."
Werth's surfer blond hair and soft-spoken demeanor can be deceptive, seemingly portraying a very cool, laid-back customer, because in actuality he's a fiery competitor at gametime.
"He's a very intense, extremely competitive teammate," says utilityman Greg Dobbs.
In addition to his baseball-playing men of the family, Werth's mother, Kim Schofield Werth, competed in the 1976 U.S. Olympic trials in the long jump and 100 meters, and his younger sisters have played or are playing Division I college sports (track at UCLA and volleyball at Nebraska). He enjoys joking that, in his family, "It's not how you play the game -- it's whether you win or lose." Werth even seems to take exception to the stereotypical parents who coddle their children.
"You see those parents who are like, 'Oh that's OK' -- but it's not OK to lose," he says. "I never felt like it was OK to lose."
That's why he wasn't upset when -- in the midst of a torrid World Series last year in which he batted .444, with a homer, three steals and a .583 on-base percentage -- Philadelphia fans booed him when he got picked off second base in Game 3.
"I should have gotten booed," he says, "and I expected to."
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