Werth's trio of steals grabs attention

Werth's trio of steals grabs attention

It was Jayson Werth's bat that made the 2009 season his most productive yet, but it was his legs that provided one of his most memorable moments of the year.

9 for 09
12/23: April's tri-cycle
12/24: Ellsbury steals home
12/25: Fowler steals five
12/26: Werth runs wild
12/27: Rallying Tribe
12/28: Stetter's mark
12/29: Hanrahan's odd win
12/30: Mets bear Brunt
12/31: Nolasco's 16K gem

That came on May 12, when the Phillies outfielder notched three of his 20 steals for the entire 2009 season -- in one inning.

On that Tuesday night, while playing the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park, Werth stood on third base after back-to-back steals in the seventh, then continued his assault on All-Star catcher Russell Martin.

After a 2-1 pitch from Ronald Belisario evened up the count to Pedro Feliz, Martin -- who never bothered to look Werth's way during the at-bat -- lightly tossed the ball pack to his pitcher like he's done so many times before. But this time, Werth had a surprise for the Dodgers' backstop -- a daring steal of home while the ball floated in the air toward the mound.

Werth's bold move came with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, giving the Phillies a 5-2 lead and the eventual win and demanding a curtain call from the 45,191 in attendance.

"Unexpected for sure," Werth said after that game. "You get a curtain call for stealing a base, that's pretty special."

That night, Werth tied a franchise record with four stolen bases in a game, becoming the first Phillies player to accomplish the feat since Garry Maddox stole four bases against the Pirates on May 29, 1978. By stealing three bases in that frame, he became the first Phillies player to do so since Pete Rose against the Reds on May 11, 1980.

The 30-year-old right fielder became the first member of the Phillies to steal home since, oddly enough, catcher Carlos Ruiz did against the Reds on June, 26, 2007.

For Werth, it was his first steal of home -- even counting Little League.

"I was probably just as surprised as you were," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told the media when asked about Werth's steal of home after a 5-3 victory that night. "When I looked up and saw him coming, I thought to myself, 'What's going on?'"

"[I was] just looking for opportunities to steal bags and not missing them, really," Werth added. "I saw something. I noticed something. I just saw an opportunity."

That opportunity began to take shape when Werth lined a one-out single to left field off Will Ohman. He then stole second base with Jimmy Rollins batting, and was on the front end of a double steal after Rollins was intentionally walked.

After Raul Ibanez drew a walk to load the bases, Dodgers manager Joe Torre summoned Belisario from the bullpen, and what happened four pitches into the 26-year-old right-hander's outing was the last thing anybody expected.

Especially Martin.

"It was an embarrassing play," Martin said after the game. "[Werth] timed it perfectly. Right then, all I was thinking about was getting the hitter out. It shouldn't have happened."

But it did.

The Dodgers were trailing by two runs with two chances to bat remaining, and the Feliz at-bat would make the difference between the Phillies pretty much putting the game away and Los Angeles getting out of a major jam to stay alive.

Naturally, Martin wasn't really focused on Werth -- especially since he had Feliz, a right-handed hitter, obstructing his view -- and he took notice. So much so that after the first pitch, Werth told himself he'd break for home if the count ever got two strikes.

When it finally did, he waited for the precise moment when the ball softly unhinged from Martin's right hand as he nonchalantly tossed it back to his pitcher.

Then, Werth broke fast and easily made it in safely before Belisario's snap throw with a feet-first slide.

"The first pitch, I knew I had it," said Werth, who also stole third base off Martin in the fourth inning, while Clayton Kershaw was pitching to Rollins. "If we got to two strikes, I felt like I had the timing. I knew it was going to be close, but I felt like I was going to be safe. I thought it was the right situation."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.