WASHINGTON — Daniel Murphy has torched just about everybody since signing with the Nationals, but he’s really torched the Mets.
In 30 games against his former team, Murphy’s slashed .388/.438/.698 with 10 doubles, a triple, eight home runs and 29 RBI and 11 walks. He continued this blistering pace on Tuesday — going 4-for-5 with a double and 5 RBI in a 11-4 romp over the Mets — inspiring this fantastical ESPN.com headline: ‘Daniel Murphy continues to celebrate independence from Mets with D.C. fireworks.’
“The only way I can explain it is he really does that to just about everybody we play, but it’s really focused in on the Mets because of the past that they have and the relationship that he has with all those guys over there — his old hitting coach, [Kevin] Long, is over there, and Terry Collins and all those guys he played with,” Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo told The Sports Junkies Wednesday.
“I don’t even know if he gets any more energized or fired up to the play the Mets than everybody else,” he said. “But it just seems like he’s put in positions very, very often to do things that really help us and hurt them and he comes through on multiple occasions.”
“He’s been tearing up — more or less — the National League and the interleague games that we’ve played since he’s been here,” he added. “He’s been incredible. One of the best players in the game over the last two and a half seasons. He’s just a hitting machine. He’s a guru. He helps our other hitters. He’s just such a breath of fresh air to have in the clubhouse.”
Against all opponents, Murphy’s hit .344 with 73 doubles, seven triples, 39 home runs and 164 RBI in 220 games for Washington. Rizzo pointed to Murphy as a sign of the organization’s philosophy shift, transitioning from the boom-or-bust power bats of former Nat infielders Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa to more consistent contact hitters, like Murphy and Trea Turner, who also happen to hit for power.
“We strike out less now. We’re more offensively efficient,” he said. “We can drive in runs via the home run, a stolen base. You kind of manufacture things. Offensively, we’re more rounded. We’re a much more versatile type of offense now and [Murphy] was the key cog to that because of the way he gets after pitchers and refuses to strike out. He’s driven in more runs with sacrifice flies, and getting guys over, and scoring guys from third with two outs. He’s really taught us how to do that and we’re becoming very efficient at it.”
The Nationals didn’t have to resort to free agent wizardry to acquire Murphy ahead of the 2016 season. As a reminder, they simply offered him what the Mets would not: $37.5 million over three years. He’ll be one of at least five Nats players representing the NL in the MLB All-Star Game. Another, Ryan Zimmerman, was the subject of the Burke & Herbert Bank Fan Question of the Week.
Eight years after his first All-Star Game appearance, Ryan Zimmerman makes his second appearance. Will start the game at first base. After an incredible first half of the season, what’s going to be the key for Ryan to stay hot in the second half? — Mike in Silver Spring
“It’s my typical answer,” Rizzo prefaced. “When Zimm’s healthy, I think he’s as good as anybody. He gives us a great right-hand at-bat in between our two lefties. If he stays healthy — especially his lower body, his feet and his hamstrings — if they stay healthy, this guy’s going to put up consistent numbers throughout. He takes really, really good care of himself. He’s in terrific shape at 32 years old and we expect big things for him, not only the rest of this year, but to be Ryan Zimmerman throughout his contract.”