WASHINGTON -- Since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 2, outfielder Jayson Werth has been one of the Nationals' hottest hitters. From that day through Monday's action against the Mets, Werth is 42-for-126 (.333) with two home runs, 14 RBIs and 25 runs scored. Most of those numbers were accumulated while batting in the leadoff spot.

This season has been the antithesis of what Werth went through during his first year with the Nationals in 2011, when he hit .232 with 20 home runs and 58 RBIs.

"I felt like when I got hurt [in May this year], I was where I needed to be [as a hitter] -- that mind-set, that feel I had in my swing," Werth said. "I was out for three months, [but] it was like I wasn't out. I was able to pick right up where I left off.

"I look back at last year, and things started badly in Spring Training. I was never able to get out of that funk. This year, I started at a place where I was more comfortable and familiar to me. I didn't let outside influences deter my thinking. I was able to keep it right."

But numbers don't tell the whole story about how valuable Werth has been to the Nationals this season. He is one of the leaders on the team. In fact, teammate Bryce Harper calls Werth "the captain" because he is always willing to help the rookie on baseball matters, such as what pitches to look for from opposing pitchers or how to position himself in the outfield.

Even when Werth was on the DL because of a broken wrist, he continued to be a team player. Werth was often seen in the dugout giving advice to his teammates.

"Werth has that mentality where he wants to go up there and win every single game," Harper said. "He is doing everything to help this team win, whether it's baserunning or hitting or helping out the guys. He has that same mentality of winning. ... He is an unbelievable ballplayer."

"He knows what it takes to win," shortstop Ian Desmond said about Werth's leadership. "He doesn't go about it in a prototypical way, but he gets his message across. It's always very clear the way he thinks, and that's what a captain needs to do. You have to be able to express your opinion, let people know we are going to win here and that's all. He does that.

"When you need a big at-bat, he is going to give it to you. When you need a good defensive play, he is going to give it to you. ... He set the time for everybody else. He has kind of made everybody rise to the occasion."

Werth downplays anything he has done to change the atmosphere in the clubhouse. In his mind, it's all about winning.

"I play to win and it encompasses a lot, from taking care of myself to taking care of other stuff that goes on," Werth said. "I want to win, and I want everyone else to feel the same way."

After signing a seven-year, $126 million contract with Washington in December 2010, it didn't take long for Werth to show how much he wanted to win.

After then-teammate Nyjer Morgan was taken out of a game against the Tigers at Space Coast Stadium in mid-March, Morgan performed three of the six sprints on the outfield warning track and called it a day.

Werth told Morgan to do the rest of the sprints. Morgan declined, figuring he arrived at the ballpark at 5:30 a.m. ET and didn't need to do any more work.

After they went into the locker room a few minutes later, Werth and Morgan got into a verbal argument, with Werth telling Morgan that he needed to continue to do his work.

Jerry Hairston Jr. got involved, and was able to calm Morgan down. Morgan believes the incident is the No. 1 reason he is no longer a member of the Nationals.

"[Werth] brought a toughness to this team that was sorely needed before he got here," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "He brought leadership and a winning attitude. The change that we all see and feel, it's a tangible thing now. Before he got here, it was something that we wanted, and he made it a tangible thing because of who he is and the presence that he brings to not only the young players, but to the veterans alike."

No wonder the Nationals have a winning attitude and the best record in baseball.