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Murphy hopes novelty of facing Mets will wear off quickly

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Murphy hopes novelty of facing Mets will wear off quickly

Daniel Murphy has spent his entire professional career with the New York Mets, 10 years since being drafted back in 2006, including the last seven with the big league club. In moving to the Nationals in free agency, he knows the city well having traveled to Washington multiple times a year. He knows the division well as a former rival in the NL East. There is familiarity, and that was important for Murphy in deciding which team to sign with.

Joining the Nats, however, will bring some unfamiliarity, including what it's like to play against the Mets. Murphy has been teammates with many of their players for years, but now he is their enemy.

Murphy knows it will be strange, but he hopes facing them in spring training helps him get over those feelings.

"As far as playing against them 19 times next year, I think the fact we're going to be playing them in spring training should help alleviate some of that, what will happen in the regular season. To be able to go up to St. Lucie or have the Mets come to us will kind of help get me ready, so to speak, for when that happens. But right now we have an eye towards Viera," he said.

Though Murphy signed with their rival, he said the reception was very positive from his former teammates and coaches. 

"I got a lot of congratulatory texts from the guys I used to play with. David [Wright] and Jacob deGrom, even the manager, Terry Collins, reached out to me. I enjoyed my time in New York. It was a lot of fun. Some great relationships were made. But my wife and I are very excited about the relationships we're going to be able to make here and the opportunity that we're going to put ourselves in for 2016."

Murphy is known as one of the best players in baseball at not striking out. He set a career-best with a 7.1 strikeout percentage in 2015, which would have led the Nationals. Murphy whiffed only 38 times in 499 at-bats last season.

That was without facing what is by most accounts the best pitching staff in baseball, though. Murphy will soon find out what it's like to stand in the box against the likes of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.

"It's a talented group. I've seen those guys come up to the big leagues and kind of mature right in front of my eyes. It's a talented group. I'll actually probably be leaning on [Ryan Zimmerman] and Jayson [Werth] and Bryce [Harper] and Anthony Rendon as much as they probably lean on me because they have actually faced them. I've gotten to see them from behind and have an idea hopefully of what are their tendencies, but they have actually seen it. Hopefully we are able to bounce ideas off of each other and come up with a game plan to put ourselves in the best position to win games in the division," Murphy explained.

On the flip-side of that, Murphy will now not have to face the likes of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. He is glad to be on the Nationals' side of things and does not believe it will be strange going from foe to friend coming from the Mets.

"I don't think so at all. Being able to see them when I was in New York 18 to 20 times a year. My wife has actually been pretty good friends and has been able to stay in tough with [Ryan's wife] Heather Zimmerman. The Zimmermans have made this a very easy transition. They have allowed us to use their real estate agent to try to find a place around here. Very accommodating. We're looking forward to seeing them in person now that we've been staying in touch with text messages. I've been able to get a hold of a couple of the guys. I know [Matt den Dekker] because we've played together. I've texted Michael Taylor, Tyler Moore and Gio, just being able to get a hold of a couple of guys to tell them how excited I am to be here," he said.

[RELATED: Nationals trade Drew Storen to Blue Jays]

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Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

WASHINGTON -- Having already won their first series at Nationals Park since April 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies will go for the sweep of Washington on Sunday night.

Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 4.66).

Pivetta was drafted by the Nationals in 2013 and went to the Phillies in 2015 as part of the Jonathan Papelbon trade.

After struggling for three straight starts -- giving up 13 runs in 14 innings -- Pivetta allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals last time out, striking out a career-high 13 batters.

"That's some of the best stuff I've seen him have all year," catcher Andrew Knapp told mlb.com. "The curveball was electric."

Pivetta got 11 swings and misses with the curveball.

"It was nice to have it back," Pivetta told mlb.com. "It all started with my delivery. I was staying up through it, not trying to rush too much and it worked out."

It his first start -- and second big-league appearance -- the 24-year-old Rodriguez picked up a win against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He allowed five runs, four hits and three walks in five innings.

Rodriguez and Satuday's losing pitcher, Erick Fedde, are filling in for injured starters Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phillies have outscored the Nationals 17-5 in the fist two games of the series. On Saturday, Maikel Franco had four hits and Carlos Santana homered to back Aaron Nola in a 5-3 victory.

"That was just a tremendous all-around baseball game," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Franco. "It's so interesting how we've been looking for him to be not just a hitter but a defender and a baserunner and an all-around athlete."

Franco drove in a run and scored twice, including the go-ahead run when he scored just ahead of the tag on Jesmuel Valentin's sacrifice fly.

The Phillies, who have won six of seven, pounded out double-digit hits for the second day in a row in Washington.

"They have a lot of patient hitters," Fedde said of the Phillies. "I think that's what makes it tough. Guys aren't swinging at bunch of junk, so you have to attack them."

The Phillies have now won four straight series for the first time since May 2016 and are 2-0 in what will be a stretch of 10 games against the Nationals and the New York Yankees.

Anthony Rendon homered and Daniel Murphy had a two-run single for Washington, which has lost three of four while scoring nine runs.

"Look, I've got all the confidence in the world we're going to start hitting," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We'll start scoring some runs. Right now, the bullpen is a little beat up. We've got to get them going again."

Rendon is doing his part. In his las 15 games, he is batting .382 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.

Hellickson (right groin strain) will make a rehab start Sunday for Class A Potomac and then is expected to rejoin the Nationals' rotation.

Hernandez said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) is about a week from beginning a rehab assignment.

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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

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USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.

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