Washington Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker talked after last night's win over the Milwaukee Brewers about the decision to flip Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy in the lineup with Murphy moving into the three-hole and Harper dropping down into the cleanup spot.
It was the first time this season that Harper started a game and didn't hit in the three-hole. Murphy has moved around a bit more, starting the season predominantly in the fifth spot in the lineup before he was moved to fourth in mid-May.
So why the move?
"Well, the decision was I thought Murph was swinging better," Baker explained.
Murphy did go 0 for 4 on Wednesday.
"He wasn't hot today, but he's been one of the hottest hitters around and if [Wilson] Ramos was in there then I would have had Ramos behind Harp, cause you're always wondering on who's going to hit behind Harp, but today it was [Anthony] Rendon because I know Rendon is at least going to put the ball in play. He can run, he stays out of double plays. I don't know, I just had that feeling last night and I've been having it for a while and so I'm hoping that it ignites us. I don't know how long it's going to be but we'll take it today."
Harper went 1 for 4 with a three-run home run in the first yesterday, after Murphy sent a fly to left with two on and no one out in the bottom of the inning.
Murphy has actually cooled off to some extent, with a .264/.316/.480 line, eight doubles, two triples and five home runs in 32 games and 136 plate appearances going back to June 1st. He still does, however, have a .345/.384/.574 line on the year, with 23 doubles and 14 home runs in 83 games and 344 PAs.
Harper has been heating up, with a .288/.377/.441 line over his last 31 games and 138 PAs going back to June 1st, after he struggled through a relatively rough .200/.422/.363 May.
That month-long slump took him from a .286/.406/.714 line on the year to a .242/.415/.535 line on May 30th.
The 23-year-old slugger's resurgence has him at .258/.400/.495 on the year after last night's game.
Tonight, Harper's back in Citi Field, where he's put up a .266/.357/.484 line with six doubles and seven home runs in 145 career PAs, facing a pitcher in Bartolo Colon, that he has a .188/.300/.375 line against over 20 PAs in which he's walked three times, struck out five times and hit one home run.
Murphy returns to his former home field and faces his former team, against whom he's 15 for 35 so far this season with a .429/.447/.800 line, a double and four home runs in nine games and 38 plate appearances for his new employers.
Here's the Nationals' lineup for the series opener with the Mets: