Daniel Murphy carries Washington Nationals with four RBIs against former team

By Jerry Beach, The Sports Xchange  |  July 10, 2016 at 9:55 AM
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NEW YORK -- When it comes to trying to put Daniel Murphy's first half of the season into context, even his Washington Nationals teammates are resorting to answering a question with a question.

"Oh my gosh, how many superlatives can you say?" Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer said Saturday night after Murphy continued tormenting his former club by going 3-for-4 with four RBIs to spark a 6-1 win over the New York Mets at Citi Field.

Manager Dusty Baker gave it a shot, sort of.

"Pretty good hitters that I've played with -- the Hank Aarons, the Orlando Cepedas, the Rico Carty and those guys -- it ranks pretty high," Baker said. "And the players I had -- Jeff Kent, Moises Alou, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds."

Baker paused.

"I'm not name-dropping," he said as reporters in his office laughed. "I'm just telling you who I've played with and who I've seen."

Who he's seeing right now is pretty good. With his latest big day against the Mets -- the team with whom he won National League Championship Series MVP honors last fall before signing a three-year deal with the Nationals -- Murphy raised his average to .349, the best in the majors. He also leads the NL in multi-hit games (38), hits (116) and total bases (197) while ranking second in slugging percentage (.593).

As gaudy as his numbers are, Murphy said he'd rather talk about his team's place in the standings than his spot in Baker's pantheon.

"It's humbling, very humbling," Murphy said before turning to a Nationals spokesman. "How many games over .500 are we? We're (17) games over .500. That's the most important part right now. Humbling for the skipper to use those names and slip my name in there, but really excited about where we're at right now."

Murphy struck out in the first inning Saturday before delivering an RBI single in the third, an RBI double in the fifth and a two-run homer in the seventh as the Nationals (53-36) won their second straight over the Mets (47-40) to extend their division lead to five games. With a chance to hit for the cycle in the eighth, Murphy worked an eight-pitch walk.

The homer was the 16th of the season for Murphy, two more than his previous career high set last season.

"The only major difference is those guys that I just named were better home run hitters," Baker said. "Murphy is learning how to hit the ball out of the ballpark. Sky's the limit (to) what he may become. I know what he already is."

So do the Mets, who drafted Murphy in the 10th round of the 2006 draft. He is batting a robust .438 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 12 games against New York.

"He's pumped up to play against us and show us we made a mistake," said Mets manager Terry Collins, whose team didn't make an offer to Murphy once he reached free agency. "That's human nature and its part of the game."

Murphy's outburst backed a strong outing by Scherzer (10-6), who earned the win after allowing an unearned run on three hits and two walks while striking out nine in seven innings.

Scherzer also scored the decisive run int he third, when he drew a leadoff walk and scored on Ben Revere's triple. Clint Robinson produced the Nationals' first run with a second-inning sacrifice fly.

Neil Walker had a sacrifice fly in the first for the Mets while Curtis Granderson and Alejandro De Aza had two hits apiece.

Right-hander Logan Verrett (3-6) took the loss in his first start since replacing injured Matt Harvey in the Mets' rotation. Verrett allowed five runs, four hits and five walks (one intentional) while striking out three.

All three players Verrett walked unintentionally came around to score. In addition to Scherzer, Bryce Harper scored after drawing a leadoff walk in the second while Jayson Werth scored after coaxing two-out walks in the fifth and seventh.

"You can't let that happen," Verrett said. "There's no excuses."

NOTES: Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard, who left Friday's start after 4 2/3 innings because of arm fatigue, underwent tests that revealed no structural damage. Manager Terry Collins said Syndergaard probably will throw a side session upon arriving in Philadelphia, where the Mets begin a three-game series on Friday. ... Mets OF Yoenis Cespedes, who exited after three innings Friday due to a right quad strain, did not play. Collins said Cespedes was "pretty sore" on Saturday but that he hoped he could come off the bench Sunday. ... Nationals manager Dusty Baker said he hopes RHP Joe Ross (right shoulder) will return shortly after the All-Star Break. ... Nationals RHP Max Scherzer is the third Nationals player to be selected to consecutive All-Star Games since the franchise moved to Washington in 2005. RF Bryce Harper (twice) and RHP Jordan Zimmermann also achieved the feat.

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