Daniel Murphy went 3 for 3 with a walk, a run scored and two driven in on Sunday, in the Washington Nationals’ 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The three-hit day, and two RBI singles, left the 31-year-old infielder 11 for 27 with a double, three home runs and seven RBIs in seven postseasons games against LA over the last seasons.
In the regular season, Murphy was 5 for 23 (.280/.348/.628) with three doubles in six games against the Dodgers.
Dave Roberts missed out on Murphy’s heroics last October, but he’s seen eight games worth of Murphy since taking over on the bench in LA, and he talked after the loss in Game 2 of the NLDS about trying to limit the damage the Nationals’ infielder can do.
“It's a challenge,” Roberts said. “You know, he has a way of -- what he always does is he puts an at-bat together. You know, especially in the postseason.
“He really doesn't go out of the zone. He really stays in the strike zone and finds a way to use the whole field.
“And left on left, right on left, it really doesn't matter for Murphy.
“You know, in situations you want to not let him beat you, but in the first -- his first RBI with Rich [Hill], first and third base, two outs, I still want to take my chances on our left-hander.
“He put a good at-bat together. He took a 1-2 pitch that was close and found a way to hit a breaking ball to center field.
“He's definitely calm under pressure, so we have to do a better job trying to get him out.”
Dusty Baker, in his first season back on the bench in the majors after a two-year layoff between gigs, watched Murphy as an analyst for TBS last October, but he’s watched up close this season and come away impressed.
Baker was asked what allows Murphy to come up big in pressure situations?
“Well, No. 1, he wants to be in that position,” Baker said.
“You know, that's where it starts. You have to want to be in that position. He has a high level of concentration, and he has a pretty good idea what he wants to do with the ball. And he knows when he's supposed to keep it off the ground. He knows when he's supposed to make contact. He also knows when he should go for the bunt, go for the homer. He has a great idea on how to play and how to hit and how to play this game.”
Murphy talked about what he’s been able to accomplish against the Dodgers last October and throughout the regular season and the first two games of this year’s NLDS matchup.
“I know that one of the first things that I've been fortunate to be in is in a really good spot in two really good lineups,” Murphy said.
“Especially last year, the second half of the year in New York, it was a really, really formidable lineup.
“You look again, I think today is a culmination of what we have done this year over the course of 162 games and Dusty keeps putting me in the middle of it. So I get to reap the benefits of guys on base in front of me and guys swinging the bat well behind me.”
This time around, Murphy said, the Nationals have a number of players with postseason experience who have been here before and know the pressure of playing in October.
“Most of the guys in this room have more postseason experience than I do,” he said.
“Hopefully the more you're able to play in the post-season, it seems like you able to try to keep your heart rate down and you're able to go and recollect on situations you've been in before. And so that's what I've seen, I think, with all the guys on our team; that we're able to pull on past experiences and when the situations get really big, it doesn't mean we're necessarily going to be successful, but we're able to slow the game down enough to put ourselves in the best position to have success.”
As for his own postseason success, Murphy said the pressure of the situation focuses the attention.
“I think on both sides you can see that senses are so heightened in the playoffs from a hitter's perspective and a pitcher's perspective that guys take pitches that you're not used to seeing them take.
“So it's so much fun, you get to the end of it, you're absolutely exhausted. But you can see from bother sides from an offensive approach, guys have great at-bats, pitchers are executing pitches. It just makes for really fun baseball.”
Unless, of course, you’re the pitchers trying to get Murphy out.
Here’s the Nationals’ lineup for Game 3 of the NLDS with the Dodgers:
#Nats vs #Dodgers NLDS Game 3: Turner - CF; Werth - LF; Murphy - 2B; Harper - RF; Rendon - 3B; Zim - 1B; Espinosa - SS; Lobaton - C Gio - P— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) October 10, 2016
Also, check out the Vin Scully-themed opening segment that will air before today’s game, which is on the MLB Network with Bob Costas, Jim Kaat and Jon Paul Morosi calling the action for NLDS Game 3: