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Dusty Baker on Daniel "Hits" Murphy and why walking Bryce Harper might help Harper

Dusty Baker talked to reporters this week about what's behind Daniel Murphy's success at the plate early this season and why the decision by other teams to walk Washington Nationals' slugger Bryce Harper might actually backfire on them.

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Dusty Baker moved Daniel Murphy into the cleanup spot behind Bryce Harper for Wednesday's series finale with the AL Central's Detroit Tigers.

It was, he explained, something he'd been thinking about for a while, and the Tigers, and right-handed starter Jordan Zimmermann, in particular, made sense as a test-case for a slightly altered middle-of-the-order alignment.

"He has an idea. He has a heck of an idea. If anything, he uses probably that iPad in the dugout as much as anybody..." -Dusty Baker on what makes Daniel Murphy successful at the plate

Murphy moved to the four-spot and Ryan Zimmerman dropped down to fifth after struggling in recent weeks as other teams became more and more comfortable walking the Nationals' No. 3 hitter, Bryce Harper.

"I switched today because Murphy is the only guy that's ever faced [Jordan] Zimmermann -- other than Jayson Werth -- and he's had quite a bit of success against Zimmermann, so today would have been a perfect day to bat him behind Bryce."

"I had experimented with different lineups and stuff all Spring and how long I'm going to stick with this I don't know," Baker added.

Murphy went 3 for 4 in the third game of three with the Tigers in D.C., driving in a run in the first when he stepped up with runners on the corners and one down and bringing a runner around from second in the sixth to put the Nationals ahead, 2-0, in what ended up a 3-2 win.

He also doubled to left for his third hit of the night, connecting for his 20th extra base hit in 136 plate appearances early this season.

Murphy finished the night with a .409/.449/.661 line, 13 doubles, two triples, five home runs, eight walks, 15 Ks in his first 33 games with the Nationals.

He's hit safely in 28 of those 33 games, four straight overall and in 11 of the last 13. He has 18 multi-hit games. Three games into the Nats' six-game homestand, Murphy is 7 for 13 with a double and a home run.

"He has an idea. He has a heck of an idea," Baker told reporters before Wednesday's game, when he was asked what allowed Murphy to be so successful at the plate.

"If anything, he uses probably that iPad in the dugout as much as anybody. You get to a point in time in your career when you know almost what's coming almost all the time by a pitcher's windup, by the sequence of pitches, by the situation.

"'The guy is trying to make me hit into a double play... he's going to do this to you and that to you.'"

"If a guy is trying to strike me out he's going to do something else to you and then you start believing by your success that you're doing the right thing. And he has a system. Everybody has to find their comfort-level and their own system on what makes them successful.

"So what works for Murph might not work for this guy and what works for this guy might not work for that guy, but there are certain absolutes of being a good hitter that you must practice and he's practicing most of them."

"There are certain absolutes of being a good hitter that you must practice and he's practicing most of them." -Dusty Baker on Daniel Murphy's success at the plate

Will having Murphy behind Harper force opposing teams to pitch to the Nationals' defending NL MVP more often?

Baker said the fact that Harper has seen so few pitches to hit in the last weeks, when he's been walked 20 times in 58 plate appearances, might actually end up helping the 23-year-old slugger, who was in something of a slump before the walks started piling up in the series in Chicago.

"Let's face it, when he was seeing pitches, he wasn't really hitting them. Before they stopped pitching to Bryce, about the last couple weeks in April, he was kind of struggling a little bit. You know what I mean?

"So they're actually doing Bryce a favor. The more pitches he sees he can zero in on what is good and what's not.

"That's just like a guy that they keep throwing breaking balls and the more breaking balls you throw him the more he should get accustomed to seeing breaking balls.

"It's tough to take now, but I think this could possibly help him in the long-run. Because it's all about vision and determining one pitch from another pitch and Bryce, when he does get a pitch to hit, he's fouled it off.

"You go through different stages and transformations as a player and as a hitter and this is -- I didn't know the other day, I had forgotten that Barry Bonds walked two hundred times or something, one year, and I was there and I don't remember -- you would think I would remember two hundred times, all I remember is some home runs and hitting .370. Bryce will be fine."

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