Nationals

Quick Links

Daniel Murphy adds to his October resume in Nationals' Game 2 win over Dodgers

Daniel Murphy adds to his October resume in Nationals' Game 2 win over Dodgers

Postseason heroics are nothing new for Daniel Murphy. It’s how he made his name in 2015 as a member of the New York Mets, as they rode his hot streak at the plate all the way to a World Series appearance.

The magic from last October hasn’t dissipated; Murphy would sign a three-year, $37.5 million contract with the division rival Nationals and prove his torrid stretch was no fluke. He turned in a career year (.347 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI) that put him squarely in the NL MVP discussion.   

So even if he would be in a different uniform this time around, the Nats didn't have any reason to expect that Murphy wouldn't excel on game’s biggest stage. 

“He wants to be in that position,” manager Dusty Baker said. “That’s where it starts. You have to want to be in that position.”

Indeed, Murphy has picked up where he left off last postseason. While Jose Lobaton had the big blow in Sunday’s 5-2 win, the 31-year-old second baseman did his part by going 3-for-3 with run with a pair of crucial RBI singles.  

The three-hit effort raised Murphy's career playoff average to .359 (18-for-64) over 16 games.

“He's just a great player,” left fielder Jayson Werth said afterward. “What he did last year down the stretch, he's been able to hold on to that and keep it going. It's really cool to see. Obviously a big part of our team.”

“He's one of the best in baseball,” added right fielder Bryce Harper. “That's the MVP this year. He did it the right way and bringing it on to the postseason.”

Murphy’s had quite the 12 month-stretch, and yet he hasn’t spent much of it patting himself on the back. Instead, he’s quick to point to his teammates for his success.

“One of the first things that I’ve been fortunate to be in is a really good spot in two really good lineups,” said Murphy, who’s batted cleanup for most of this season. “...I get to reap the benefits of guys on base in front of me and guys swinging the bat well behind me.”

On Sunday, Murphy gave the Nats what they had been missing in their previous two playoff trips in 2012 and 2014. He especially excelled with runners in scoring position, spraying singles to right and center field to plate insurance runs after Washington grabbed a 3-2 fourth-inning lead.

For a lineup that sometimes gets too keen on hitting the long ball, Murphy’s approach is a welcome sight.

 “I think that's what experience gives you," first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "Being in the big leagues now for seven years like he has, and having been in those RBI situations where you know the pitcher is not going to give in, he just does such a good job of sticking with it.”

Perhaps the only reason anyone would have thought Murphy wouldn’t perform was because of his strained left glute he suffered in mid-September. With the Nats virtually assured a playoff spot at the time, they shut their best hitter down for the rest of the regular season in hopes to get him closer to full strength for the playoffs.

So far, so good, as Murphy’s resembled exactly the type of October hero Washington needs him to be. 

“[He] didn't play for three weeks, and now he's raking again,” Harper said “He's just incredible. A lot of fun to watch. We need that out of him, and [it was] huge game for him." 

MORE: NATIONALS BULLPEN, USED EARLY AND OFTEN, COMES UP BIG

Quick Links

Washington Nationals Roundup: Juan Soto stays hot at the plate

juan_soto_spring.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Washington Nationals Roundup: Juan Soto stays hot at the plate

The Washington Nationals are roughly a week and a half away from Opening Day, so players are rounding into form for the start of the season.

Here are the latest news and notes from Spring Training.

Players Notes:

Young outfielder Juan Soto went yard again, taking Hector Santiago deep in the first inning sunday against the Mets. His third home run boosted his Spring Training average to .400.

Outfielder Michael A. Taylor received good news on his MRI, and tweeted out that he did some hitting, throwing, and running in a pool Sunday.

Pitcher Stephen Strasburg allowed three runs in five innings against the Mets. He gave up six hits, and also struck out six, and now has 19 strikeouts in 15.2 innings this spring.

Injuries: 

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, but should be ready for Opening Day

OF Michael A. Taylor: Knee, out indefinitely

Coming Up:

Monday 3/18: Nationals vs. Marlins, 1:05 p.m., FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

Monday 3/18: Nationals @ Mets, 1:10 p.m., First Data Field

Tuesday 3/19: Nationals @ Braves, 1:10 p.m., Champion Stadium at ESPN Wide World of Sports

News update courtesy of Rotoworld

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

  •  

Quick Links

Nationals star Stephen Strasburg is, in fact, happy to be here

Nationals star Stephen Strasburg is, in fact, happy to be here

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A jovial guy looking strikingly like Stephen Strasburg was at Strasburg’s locker Sunday afternoon. Beard a bit long, hair on top a bit shorter.

Turns out, it was actually Strasburg, who is including a touch of humor and more frequent smiles in recent post-pitching conversations with reporters. It may not last. But, for now, there is a veteran pitcher pleased with progress in place of an often dour competitor who grapples with his perfectionist self.

Strasburg threw 84 pitches against a recognizable New York Mets lineup Sunday. This was not an afternoon spent against late spring canned ham delivered via a split-squad game. Instead, the Mets rolled out several of the hitters Strasburg will see March 30 when he presumably takes the mound in Game 2 of the season opposite New York’s Noah Syndergaard.

“Fastball command was good,” Strasburg said. “Got really aggressive on it. But that’s OK, at this point. You don’t want to  -- you want to work on stuff, but at the same time, well aware we open up with them. So, you know, don’t want to be featuring everything you might be featuring later on.”

Other recent realizations have reminded Strasburg he is now 30 years old, entering season 10 and just generally a legit veteran. He looked down at first base Saturday and recognized Stubby Clapp, a former Olympic player with Canada. Clapp, 46, was coaching first base for St. Louis. Strasburg turned to Erick Fedde: “‘I faced that guy in the Olympics.”

How did a Sunday afternoon conversation with media arrive at Clapp? Because Strasburg decided to face the Mets. Both Jacob deGrom and Syndergaard were lined up to pitch against the Nationals on Sunday and Monday, respectively. DeGrom was announced as sick Sunday. Syndergaard won’t be pitching in the split-squad game Monday. Instead, they will both pitch a minor-league game. Basically, the Mets chose to have their top two pitchers avoid the first opponent of the season.

Strasburg didn’t bother with such gamesmanship -- beyond relying on his fastball often. Instead, he took the mound then noted his status in the division.

“I mean, I’m the longest-tenured pitcher in the NL East,” Strasburg said. “What’s another start against the Mets? I think it just comes down to execution for me and that’s the same thing for everybody.”

The quote carries weight on three levels: Strasburg, somehow, realizes he has been in the division longer than any other pitcher. And only one starter is close to him. Season six is in front of deGrom. Season five is next for Syndergaard. Max Scherzer is entering his fifth season in the division. Same with Aaron Nola in Philadelphia. It’s technically year nine for Julio Teheran. However, he made six appearances total in his first two years.

Strasburg’s statement also shows inherent confidence that scouting reports can’t counter him when he’s on. Last, a T-shirt worthy slogan -- “What’s another start against the Mets?” -- came from him, of all people.

He was pleased to get a look at the Mets close to the opener.

“You want to see if they’re making any tweaks to their approach or if they’re going to be the same type of hitter,” Strasburg said. “I think over the years, you kind of realize that guys have certain strengths and they’re going to stick to those strengths much like myself.”

So, five innings, six hits, three earned runs, six strikeouts and two walks. Four of those hits happened in the fifth and sixth innings when Strasburg primarily threw first-pitch fastballs down the middle. His work was done in the first four innings when he carved through the Mets. It all left him happy. For now.

Soto rolling along

The box score claims Juan Soto was 3-for-4 Sunday with two doubles and a home run. Not so inside Soto’s brain. He thought he beat out a grounder for an infield single though he was called out.

“In my mind, it’s 4-for-4,” Soto said with a smile.

Soto has hit a home run in three of his last four games. His spring OPS is 1.288 after 35 at-bats. It’s spring -- always a necessary caveat -- but the point here is nothing indicates a change for Soto. If anything, he might be a better all-around player because he is improved defensively and on the base paths. The hitting situation has not changed.

“I feel really comfortable at the plate, I’m seeing the ball really well,” Soto said. “Better than when I got here. I’m almost ready.”

Taylor takes a first -- small -- step

Michael A. Taylor’s MRI revealed a sprained left hip and knee. Sunday, a modest workout sent him to social media to express his pleasure.

Thankful for the good news on my MRI!! Feeling good after hitting, throwing and running (in the pool) today. #Nationals #SpringTraining #MLB

Manager Davey Martinez clarified Taylor took one-handed swings off the tee, threw “lightly” from about 90 feet and did run in the pool. Martinez also called it an expected “baseline” for the day. The explanation appeared targeted to calm takeaways from Taylor’s tweet.

“We'll see how he comes back and feels tomorrow,” Martinez said. “But for us, that's a good thing that he's feeling that good. We'll see where it takes us in the next couple of days.”

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: