THERE WERE times over the past 3 years when Jayson Werth thought moments like this would never arrive; that the wrist injuries that plagued him for parts of two seasons would spell his end, that he'd never end up in a dugout in a major league park with a home crowd standing and roaring and imploring him to re-emerge with a tip of the cap.
But the past year has been something of a breakthrough for the outfielder, and that breakthrough continued last night in magnificent fashion.
Werth became the 20th player in Phillies history to club three home runs in a game, tying a franchise record with eight RBI while leading the Phillies to a 10-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park.
A player who had never before experienced a curtain call found himself answering two - once after a grand slam in the third inning and once after his solo home run with two outs in the fifth.
"I can't say enough about this place - this city, these fans," Werth said. "That was special tonight."
He homered off of two pitchers: Lefthander David Purcey allowed his three-run blast in the second inning and the grand slam in the third, while righthander Jesse Litsch gave up the solo shot in the fifth.
He homered to all angles of the park: His first landed about 10 rows deep in rightfield; his second bounced off a Jeep-Chrysler sign hanging off the second deck in right-center; his third landed in the first few rows of left-center.
Put it this way: Werth could have retired after the third inning and still finished with a performance that would have gone down as the best in his career.
Four other Phillies have finished with eight RBI: Kitty Bransfield in 1910, Gavvy Cravath in 1915, Willie "Puddin' Head" Jones in 1958 and Mike Schmidt in 1976. Thirteen others have knocked in seven in a game. The last was Ryan Howard, who did it on June 20, 2006.
The last player to hit three in a game was Howard, who went deep three times in the first game of a doubleheader against the Braves on Sept. 3, 2006. Mike Schmidt did it three time and Johnny Callison did it twice, so it has actually happened 23 times. Eleven of those players, including Werth and Howard, hit them in consecutive at-bats.
"What J-Werth just did today, it's fun to watch," Howard said. "It's even more fun to do."
After the solo home run in the fifth, Werth had one more at-bat, giving him a chance to tie the major league record of four home runs, held by 15 players. But after working the count full, he fouled out to shallow rightfield.
Werth began the season sharing time with Geoff Jenkins in rightfield, but became the starter in center when a calf injury forced Shane Victorino to the disabled list. He took advantage of the opportunity, hitting .276 with five home runs in April. Manager Charlie Manuel has started him in centerfield the past four games, moving Victorino back to right, where they shared time last season.
Although he has played professionally for 11 years, Werth has rarely had the chance to be an everyday player. After hitting 16 home runs in 2004 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he suffered a wrist injury that hampered him throughout what was supposed to be a breakthrough 2005 season.
He missed all of 2006 after surgery and signed with the Phillies as a free agent before last year.
"It's tough to get opportunities in this game," Werth said. "That's one thing that they give out very rarely is everyday opportunities. I had a chance in LA, then I got hurt, and I was able to get healthy and come here. It was a blessing in disguise, I guess."
What shouldn't get lost was the performance of lefthander Jamie Moyer, who pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and striking out five while walking two.
By the time he allowed his first two runs in the fourth inning - on an RBI double by Alex Rios and an RBI single by former Phillie Scott Rolen - the Phillies already had an 8-0 lead.
"It helps," said Moyer, who improved to 3-3 and dropped his ERA to 4.89. "Toronto's a team that has had their way with me at times. It was nice to get a couple-run lead early and put some zeros up."
Two other Phillies had multiple hits besides Werth, who finished 3-for-4 with eight RBI and three runs scored. Jimmy Rollins went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored. Victorino finished 2-for-3 and was one of only two players besides Werth to drive in a run. Howard went 1-for-3 with an RBI single and scored runs.
The only flaws came on the basepaths, where Victorino was caught stealing and Chris Coste was caught in a doubleplay after taking off on a fly ball by Moyer that leftfielder Shannon Stewart slid and caught.
"I like the way we played," said Manuel, whose team improved to 24-19. "We made some mistakes baserunning. Outside that, we did pretty good." *