WASHINGTON -- It is becoming a tired refrain for manager Terry Collins and his New York Mets.
Daniel Murphy continues to torment his former team, as he had four straight RBI hits as the Washington Nationals crushed the Mets 11-4 on Tuesday afternoon. Murphy tied a career high with five RBIs and is hitting better than .400 against the team that drafted him out of Jacksonville University in 2006.
"I've seen it. He's an outstanding hitter," said Collins, his former skipper.
Murphy is now hitting .341 with 26 doubles and 60 RBIs this season for the Nationals.
"The guy is good. That is all you can say. You have to make good pitches to him," said Seth Lugo, the Mets starter on Tuesday.
Murphy, as usual, deflected praise and gave credit to his teammates, including starting pitcher Joe Ross and right fielder Bryce Harper. Batting third and ahead of Murphy, Harper went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBIs to raise his average to .324.
"It was a great start for him -- working all quadrants of the zone," Murphy said of Ross. "What can you say about Bryce?"
National League East leading Washington (50-34) is 11 1/2 games ahead of the third-place Mets (38-45), who fell to 3-9 against the Nationals this season.
The Mets starting lineup was without veteran outfielders Yoenis Cespedes (leg cramp) and Curtis Granderson (hip), who was used as a pinch hitter. But that might not have mattered since Washington had 14 hits and drew five walks.
"We have to make better pitches," Collins said. "They have a good lineup. They can do damage."
Ross (5-3) gave up just two runs on eight hits in seven innings with six strikeouts. The right-hander, who got off to a shaky start Tuesday, has given up just seven earned runs in his last four starts after allowing five runs on June 13 against the Atlanta Braves.
"I had runners on in the first few innings," Ross said. "We made a lot of great defensive plays. I have just been trying to throw the ball down in the zone."
Jose Reyes led off the game with a homer to give the Mets the early lead. The homer came on an 0-2 pitch and was the 25th leadoff homer in the career of Reyes.
But the Nationals took a 2-1 lead in the third on two-out RBI singles by Harper and Murphy.
The Mets tied the game at 2 with a solo homer in the fourth by Rene Rivera.
Washington responded by scoring four runs in the fifth to grab a 6-2 advantage while getting five hits in a row.
Wilmer Difo (two hits, three runs) led off with a single, went to third on a single by Harper and scored on an error as the ball got past Mets right fielder Jay Bruce.
"He has made some adjustments in his swing, in his approach," Washington manager Dusty Baker said of Difo.
Murphy had a single off the glove of third baseman Wilmer Flores to score Harper. Adam Lind followed with a single and Ryan Raburn added a two-run double to score Murphy and Lind for a 6-2 edge.
Murphy had a two-run single off reliever Josh Edgin in the sixth and Lind drove in a run with a groundout for a 9-2 lead.
Harper drove in a run in the eighth with a single to make it 10-2. Harper has eight RBIs in his last 10 games and is hitting better than .400 during that stretch.
Murphy then had an RBI double off Chase Bradford for an 11-2 lead. Bruce hit a two-run homer in the ninth off Oliver Perez to make it 11-4.
Lugo (3-2) gave up 10 hits and six earned runs in five innings.
"I left my cutter up a lot," he said.
Brandon Nimmo was a career-best 3-for-4 and T.J. Rivera was 2-for-4 for the Mets before he left the game after limping to first on a groundout in the seventh.
But by then Ross, who gave up two solo homers, had set the tone by using an effective change up.
"I feel a lot more comfortable throwing it," he said.
NOTES: Mets OF Yoenis Cespedes did not play after he sustained a cramp while trying to make a catch in the ninth inning Monday. Manager Terry Collins hopes he can start Wednesday ... Mets OF Curtis Granderson (hip) was a late scratch from the starting lineup and then was retired as a pinch-hitter in the sixth ... Washington RHP Tanner Roark (6-6, 5.27 ERA) will face Mets RHP Jacob deGrom (8-3, 3.55) in the series finale Wednesday ... Washington 1B Ryan Zimmerman and 3B Anthony Rendon did not play as they got the day off after a night game ... Washington 2B Daniel Murphy spent the first seven years of his career with the Mets and helped New York to the 2015 World Series.