MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Move to leadoff has benefited Werth, Nats

Move to leadoff has benefited Werth, Nats

WASHINGTON -- After Denard Span injured his back and was placed on the disabled list in July, Nationals manager Matt Williams found himself using several leadoff hitters, from Michael Taylor to Anthony Rendon to Yunel Escobar. The results were mixed.

Now it looks like Williams has found his leadoff hitter for the rest of the season in outfielder Jayson Werth. In his 17 games in the leadoff spot, Werth is 23-for-71 with four home runs, 11 RBIs and 16 runs scored. Three of those RBIs came when he hit a three-run homer in an 8-4 victory over the Braves on Sunday afternoon.

Werth having success at the top spot should not come as a surprise. He was the primary leadoff hitter in 2012, when the Nationals won their first National League East title. That year, he hit .309 with two home runs, 12 RBIs and a .388 on-base percentage in 38 games at the leadoff spot.

"He is comfortable there. He is comfortable [in the three-hole as well]. But it gets him opportunities in the leadoff spot to see pitches and get into at-bats," Williams said. "We all know about the number of pitches he sees in every at-bat. That's a lot of pitches. It provides him opportunity at that spot. … We have a good RBI guy at the top of the order, which he is. He understands how to hit."

Werth, who prefers to hit in the middle of the order, missed most of the season because of shoulder and wrist injuries. When he returned to action in late July, Werth found himself in a serious slump. That's when Williams moved him to the top spot on Aug.18 against the Rockies.

"The top of the order has been working so far. I hope to keep it going," Werth said.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All theTime. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.