The ballpark was not filled Friday afternoon as the Washington Nationals formed a row on the third-base line, but those inside Citizens Bank Park were prepared. The Nationals coaches were introduced. Then the reserves. Everyone knew who came next.
Jayson Werth, 37 years old and in his seventh season with Washington, stepped out of the visiting dugout. The Phillies fans booed. Werth, ever the villain, doffed his blue hat in appreciation. They booed him every time he batted and when he took the field in the first inning. Five innings later, he crushed a three-run homer that proved to be the decisive swing in a 7-6 Nationals win at Citizens Bank Park.
"I'm just happy to be back in Philadelphia," Werth said afterward. "I've always loved this place. The fans and playing at this ballpark, it means a lot."
He smiled. A reporter asked Werth if he can imagine a day when he comes to South Philadelphia and is not greeted with jeers.
"I don't know," he said. "Do you?"
A nearby teammate interjected. "Maybe next year," he said to Werth. The long-haired outfielder nodded.
"It's only been seven years," Werth said.
Werth, since leaving the Phillies, has hit .272 with an .884 OPS in 191 plate appearances at Citizens Bank Park. Since the start of the 2012 season, no non-Phillies players have hit more homers at Citizens Bank Park than Werth (13) and Bryce Harper (12).
The Nationals, after the 2010 season, paid Werth $126 million. That was far more than the Phillies' offer.
Does it surprise him that people in Philadelphia still hold that against him?
"No," Werth said. "Nothing really surprises me in this game anymore. I do know that I am a free agent after the end of the year."
The Phillies have lost each of their last six home openers. They are 3-11 in openers at Citizens Bank Park. . . . Washington has won 13 of its last 14 against the Phillies dating to last May. . . . Jeremy Guthrie will make a spot start for Washington on Saturday. The 37-year-old righthander did not pitch in the majors last season but is a veteran of 305 games.