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Nationals’ Daniel Murphy falls short in race for NL batting title

Daniel Murphy took one last shot at the NL batting title on Sunday, but came up short at the end of his first season in D.C.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In the end, Colorado Rockies’ infielder DJ LeMahieu finished the season 192 for 552 (.348 AVG). First-year Washington Nationals’ second baseman Daniel Murphy finished 184 for 531 (.347 AVG). LeMahieu won the National League batting title.

Murphy, recovering from a strained left buttock, had not started since September 17th or stepped to the plate since he made pinch hit appearances in back-to-back games on September 19th and 20th.

He got one last opportunity to pass the Rockies’ second baseman in the fifth, but lined out to right field.

LeMahieu sat out four of the Rockies’ last five games, with now-former Colorado skipper Walt Weiss explaining that if Murphy was in the lineup he would have put LeMahieu in as well.

"It's a unique situation because Murphy's injured, he's not playing," Weiss said, as quoted on ESPN:

"If he's playing, they could fight it out. I don't want DJ to lose a batting title that way [with Murphy not playing], so I'm going to pay attention to the math.

My philosophy, whether you like it or not, is I'm going to take care of the guys who take care of our team. DJ's one of those guys that takes care of our team."

Murphy wasn’t thinking about winning the batting title in his pinch hit appearance on Sunday, at least according to what he told reporters after the game, talking instead about getting back up with a bat in his hands, after he aggravated the left buttock strain in his last start in Atlanta.

“I felt good in the box, and I felt good running at the speed I did,” Murphy said, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo. “So I’m progressing nicely.”

The batting title, he said, and individual accomplishments, were not on his mind.

“No I don’t think so,” Murphy said. “We accomplished one of our goals, actually two of our goals, I’d say. We won the NL East, and we’re hosting a division series as well.

“So, no, the batting title is not something I gave a lot of thought to.”

His manager, Dusty Baker, was thinking about his player getting a shot at the batting title, if he could get him into a spot where he wouldn’t have to run and risk further damage.

“There was nobody on base and it wasn’t a double play situation,” Baker explained when asked about sending him up.

“It was a two-out situation, had a guy out there that threw pretty hard, which, he hadn’t had any at bats, so that’s what went into the decision. As far as we were told before the game that LeMahieu had sat out yesterday and today, so it was a matter of percentage points so we were just going to give him an at bat and if he got a hit that was going to force LeMahieu to win this thing without sitting down.”

Baker offered his own take on LeMahieu “sitting” on his lead.

“You can do whatever you want to do, but you would rather have a guy not sit on it,” he said. “But it’s happened both ways. I’ve seen it happen both ways. [LeMahieu is] a heck of a player, but you just get more respect from around the league and everybody when you play through it and win it. Murphy wasn’t sitting on his, he was injured, and so like I said, people can do whatever they want to do really.”

Though he tried to get his player the title, Baker’s main concern has been making sure that Murphy is ready for the start of the NLDS. Murphy said he was hopeful.

“It’s tough to guess what’s going to happen on Friday on Sunday,” Murphy said. “But hopefully.”

“We’ll see more this week, when he’s in practice,” Baker said.

“Hitting is not the problem, so we’ll see how he responds at other facets of the game during our workouts Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.”

Murphy finished the first year of his 3-year/$37.5M deal with the Nationals with a .347/.390/.595 line, a career-high 47 doubles and a career-high 25 home runs, at a career-best 5.5 fWAR.

Will he be ready for the postseason? We’ll find out Friday.

• We talked about the race for the batting title, the Nationals’ regular season highlights and more on Nats Nightly after the game: