Daniel Murphy had played in 36 of Washington’s first 37 games before Dusty Baker decided to give the veteran infielder a game off in last night’s series opener with Pittsburgh’s Pirates in PNC Park.
“I was going to give him the day off the other day, in that split doubleheader,” Baker explained, “but the importance of us -- we needed the split, especially after we didn’t win the first game, so I figured today is a good day, this will give Murphy two days off, and he got hit in the leg in that first game — and a day off is necessary sometimes because we’ve got to keep healthy and strong the whole way, and I saw his bat slowing down a little bit the other day, so I figured today was as good a day as any.”
Through 36 games and 161 plate appearances in his second season in D.C., Murphy, 32, has put up a .317/.385/.531 line with 11 doubles, six home runs, 15 walks and 17 Ks on the year.
In 12 games in May, the runner-up for the NL MVP award last season, had slowed some, with a .250/.400/.375 line, two doubles, a homer, nine walks and five Ks in 50 PAs.
With Murphy off for the night against the Pirates, Wilmer Difo filled in at second base and hit a two-run home run to center off Bucs’ righty Chad Kuhl in the fourth to put the Nationals ahead 5-1 in what ended up an 8-4 win.
Murphy is back in the lineup tonight, however, for the second of three in PNC, and the Nationals are throwing Jacob Turner, giving the 25-year-old right-hander his second start this season after he pitched out of the bullpen following his 2017 debut on the mound in a start against the Rockies in Colorado last month.