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Werth's walk-off homer forces Game 5 for Nationals, Cardinals

| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 7:18 p.m.
The Nationals' Jayson Werth watches his game-winning solo home run in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, in Washington. (AP)

WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals signed Jayson Werth to show them how to win. His game-ending homer Thursday night extended their surprising season.

Werth led off the bottom of the ninth inning by driving Lance Lynn's 13th pitch into the left-field stands to give the Nationals a 2-1 victory over the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals and force Game 5 in the NL Division Series.

As he circled the bases, Werth raised his right index finger in a “No. 1” gesture while the crowd of 44,392 roared. Werth tossed his batting helmet high in the air before jumping on home plate and being enveloped by a bouncing collection of teammates.

The series will end Friday in Washington, with the winner advancing to face the San Francisco Giants in the NL Championship Series. The starters will provide a rematch of Game 1 — which Washington won — with Gio Gonzalez on the mound for the Nationals and Adam Wainwright for the Cardinals.

“It's what you play all season for and what you work out all winter for and what you get to spring training early for,” Werth said. “We have a chance (Friday) to take that next step.”

The homer was Werth's first in the postseason with the Nationals but the 14th of his career. He won the 2008 World Series and a string of division titles with the Philadelphia Phillies before moving to Washington as a free agent before last season on a stunning $126 million contract.

He gets a ton of credit for helping steer a quick turnaround: The Nationals lost 100 games in 2008 and '09 but led the majors with 98 wins and won their division this year.

“When I signed here, my first day here, I went to a Capitals game, a hockey game, (and) the place was packed. Somebody said, ‘Just a few short years ago, this place was empty.' So I knew that a winning ballclub would bring the fans,” Werth said. “And here we are, two years later, and they're showing up. And it's awesome.”

Lynn, usually a starter but a reliever in the playoffs, was making his third appearance of the series. He was the Cardinals' third pitcher, and manager Mike Matheny chose not to employ closer Jason Motte.

“If we were at home, it would have been a very easy decision to bring in Motte,” Matheny said. “Had a lot of confidence in Lance. He came in throwing the ball well. Werth just put together a very good at-bat.”

Cardinals batters did not down the stretch. They made eight consecutive outs via strikeout against three pitchers — Jordan Zimmermann, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, who threw the ninth and got the win.

Starters Kyle Lohse, who won the wild-card playoff game for St. Louis against Atlanta last week, and Ross Detwiler were superb. Lohse lasted seven innings, allowing one run and two hits. Detwiler went six, with one unearned run and three hits all he conceded.

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