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Nats Stock Watch: Murphy's record month puts him in elite company

Nats Stock Watch: Murphy's record month puts him in elite company

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 4-3

Team slash: .230/.272/.443

Team ERA: 3.29

Runs per game: 3.8


Daniel Murphy, 2B: .435 AVG, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 1.197 OPS

So uh, what Murphy is doing these days is downright ridiculous. Not only has he continued to rake, but he's doing so at a record pace: The Nats second baseman tied the franchise mark with 47 hits in a single month, entering June with an MLB-best .397 average. 

Per CSN reseacher Rich Goldberg, here are the only players since 1995 with to hit .397 or better through May 31: 

Name Year Avg. thru 5/31 Final avg.
Daniel Murphy 2016 .397 ???
Chipper Jones 2008 .413  .364
Todd Helton 2000 .421  .372
Tony Gwynn 1997 .408  .372
Larry Walker 1997 .407 .366
Roberto Alomar 1996 .397 .326

Not bad company that Murphy keeps. In fact, of the names listed above, Jones, Helton and Gwynn would go on to win the batting title. 

It's easy to forget now that the former Met wasn't even the Nats' first choice when they were exploring options at second base last winter. After all, Washington went after Ben Zobrist and Brandon Phillips before eventually signing Murphy to a three-year, $37.5 million deal. A few months later, the 31-year-old not only appears to be an early shoe-in for the All-Star Game, but for plenty of other accolades down the road if he keeps this up. 

Joe Ross, SP: 2-0, 14.0 IP, 2 ER, 9 K

Not many figured that Ross would be the starter in the Nats rotation with the lowest ERA at 2.32. Then again, exceeding expectations is what the 23-year-old right hander has done ever since he was called up to the big leagues last June. 

After a four-game skid, Ross put together back-to-back quality outings to raise his record to 5-4. He not only notched wins on those starts, but he yielded just two runs runs over 14 innings. Perhaps the most impressive thing about him over the last week was his ability to work his way out of late-inning jams unscathed. Whether it was a big strikeout or a key double play ball, he showed a knack for wiggling out of trouble just as Dusty Baker pondered making an early call to the bullpen. That's another great sign for a young arm that continues to show promise with each and every time he takes the mound. 

Felipe Rivero, RP:  4 GP,  3.2 IP, 0 ER, 5 K

Relievers don't always get mentioned here, but Rivero has carved out a niche as Baker's go-to bullpen choice of late. And for the most part, he's been getting the job done. He's allowed just two hits in his last seven outings while striking out nine and walking none. And in the last two weeks, he's dropped his season ERA from 5.09 to 3.60. 

That said, the one concern regarding Rivero is that he's been called upon a bullpen-high 27 times — just over half of the games played this season. We'll see if his usage rate remains this way as the season progresses, but it's obvious that the hard-throwing lefty has already become an integral part of the Nats' relief corps. 


Gio Gonzalez, SP: 0-1, 6 ER, 4.2 IP

For the first time this season, Gonzalez has found himself in a bit of a funk. In back-to-back starts against the Mets and Cardinals, he surrendered a combined 13 runs, raising his ERA from 1.86 to 3.57. In those outings, he looked strikingly similar to the Gio of previous years, battling pitch inefficiency and location issues. And against the Cards in particular, his biggest bugaboo was that he couldn't finish batters when he was ahead in the count, allowing three runs in two-out, two-strike situations. 

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The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful


The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful

It's that wonderful time of year again — when baseball teams flock to warmer climates for spring training and the regular season is practically around the corner — and Bryce Harper is already killing it.

It took the Washington Nationals a few games to brush away their offseason cobwebs and get back into gear, but since the beginning of March, they're riding a five-game win streak as of Sunday the 4th.

They are 6-4-1 in spring training going into Monday's matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Since Thursday, the Nats have taken down — in order — the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, defending World Series champion Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers and the Mets again. Sunday's 6-2 win against the Tigers was in large part thanks to Harper's bat, as the star of the team drilled his first home run of spring training. 


Turn up the volume for this one because the sound of Harper's contact with the ball is just beautiful — and perhaps enough to get you pumped for the March 29 opener.

Harper blew this ball away in the bottom of the third for a two-run homer with Howie Kendrick on base. He also had a single in the fourth and finished the game with three RBI.

Gio Gonzalez was the winning pitcher for the Nats. 


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Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches


Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches

We are fortunate enough to live in a world where we can watch a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback (attempt to) hit against a three-time Cy Young pitcher in a Major League Baseball preseason game.

Max Scherzer took less than a minute to strike out Tim Tebow, who was batting cleanup for the Mets in a spring training game Friday. You can watch the whole at-bat here:

It looks like Tebow and Scherzer are starting to develop a pattern - last year’s matchup between the two went down the exact same way.

Tebow was able to redeem himself later in the game with his first hit of the year against Nats prospect Erick Fedde. He will likely begin the season with the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he believes Tebow will eventually see some at-bats in the Majors.