Over his last ten games (eight starts), Daniel Murphy was 6 for 30 (.200/.294/.333) with a double and a home run, three walks, and six Ks in 34 plate appearances. Murphy went 1 for 7 with a walk and three Ks in the first two games of this weekend’s four-game set against the San Diego Padres before Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker made a decision to give the 32-year-old infielder a rest on Saturday night.
Murphy was originally penciled in as part of the Nationals’ starting lineup for the third game of four in Petco Park, but almost as soon as the lineup was released, Baker pulled the second baseman, telling reporters in San Diego that he decided Murphy could use a day off.
“I just thought that it would be better,” Baker told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“I could see he wasn’t moving real, real smoothly the last couple days. So part of my job is to notice - whether it’s personality changes, physical changes, whatever I see - differences between one day to the next. And Murph doesn’t come and tell me. I’m going to have to go and ask him. Well, actually tell him and not ask him.
“Because Murph wants to play. But it didn’t take long, and he kind of agreed with me. That showed me that he was just ailing a little bit.”
On the season, Murphy, (who finished the first year of his 3-year/$37.5M deal with the Nationals with a .347/.390/.595 line, 47 doubles, 25 home runs, 36 walks, and 51 Ks in 142 games and 582 plate appearances, with 156 wRC+, at a career-best 5.5 fWAR), has put up a .325/.381/.563 line with 36 doubles, 20 home runs, 36 walks, 51 Ks, and 138 wRC+ in 111 games and 462 plate appearances, over which he’s been worth 3.2 fWAR, good for third-best on the team, behind only Bryce Harper (4.9) and Anthony Rendon (5.7) for the Nationals’ lead in WAR.
Baker said he learned about the second baseman in their first season together in 2016, and knows now how to recognize the signs the veteran infielder is scuffling.
“This is the time of year... like last year, I’ve got to really watch him, because he does a lot of squatting at second base, he hits out of a crouch. Last year, he was new to me, so I didn’t really know the signs. Now I recognize some signs. So we’ve just got to keep him healthy and make sure nothing happens again.”
Murphy ended up missing 10 games at the end of the 2016 when he was dealing with a glute strain, though he did return to go 7 for 15 with six walks in the Nats’ NLDS loss to the Dodgers.
With all the injuries the Nationals have dealt with over the last few months, Baker was asked earlier this week if he would lean on veterans like Ryan Zimmerman and Murphy until his roster is back at full strength... if it ever gets there.
“No, you can’t lean on them any more than we’ve leaned on them already,” Baker said.
“Because if you lean on them, what happens if you’re leaning on them too hard and they break down. So I have to continue to give them rest and have the other guys pick it up. They’ve been carrying most of the weight, most of the year, and I’m not going to put any more weight on them. I was hoping we could take some weight off of them.”
Last night, the veteran skipper saw that Murphy was in need of a break, and he gave it to him, but he expects the second baseman to be back in the lineup this afternoon for the finale with the Padres.