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Washington Nationals’ “6:00 AM arrival” lineup struggles in loss to New York Mets...

New York Mets’ right-hander Jacob deGrom dominated the Washington Nationals’ makeshift lineup in the series opener in the nation’s capital.

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Dusty Baker told reporters after the series finale in Houston on Thursday night that he might field what he described as a “real abstract” lineup in Friday night’s series opener with the New York Mets in Washington, D.C.

“These guys are dragging,” Baker said, after the Nationals took two of three from the Astros with a 5-4 win.

“They’ve given us all they have,” he continued, “and you can tell [Daniel Murphy] is slowing down and [Ryan Zimmerman] is slowing down, so we might have a real abstract lineup tomorrow since we get in at 5:00 in the morning and these guys need a blow, so we’re going to take our shot tomorrow.”

Murphy was actually one of two everyday players in the Nationals’ lineup when it was posted on Friday afternoon, playing alongside Adam Lind at first base, Wilmer Difo at shortstop, and Adrian Sanchez at third, with Alejandro De Aza, Michael A. Taylor and Andrew Stevenson left-to-right in the outfield and Jose Lobaton behind the dish with A.J. Cole starting.

Murphy had, of course, crushed Mets’ pitching since he signed with the Nationals, with a .405 AVG (49 for 121) in 31 games and 133 plate appearances heading into the series opener.

Bryce Harper noted on Twitter that the team actually got back to the nation’s capital at 4:30 AM Friday morning.

Baker reiterated on Friday afternoon that the long night of travel had a lot to do with the lineup he put together.

“I got some guys that are — not ailing, but some guys that are fatiguing,” he explained, “... and when you get tired and when you get fatigued, that’s when you get injured, and we don’t need any more injuries.

“Plus,” Baker added, “our secondary guys have been doing the job. I was thinking about [Gregg] Popovich, whom I like a lot, he kind of preserves his guys even at the expense of getting fined. I hope I don’t get fined.”

Baker was asked if he was more comfortable fielding a lineup like the one he sent out against the Mets since the Nationals had a 76-49 record and a commanding 13.5-game lead in the division.

“No, you don’t feel comfortable until you clinch and then after that then you try to keep them sharp and not play too much, but then you don’t play enough then they’re not sharp — cause I’ve been on both sides as a player, and then we’ve got guys that are trying to drive in 100 runs or trying to [hit] 30 home runs, or trying to win 15 games or whatever it is, I mean, you just can’t stop cause you’ve won, you don’t want to stop short of your goal.

“Plus, there’s a sign in the dugout, in there on the way down [from] the clubhouse to the dugout that actually I think is great from Joe DiMaggio that says, ‘Some kid is at his first game,’ or something,” and that, Baker said, is how pros should approach the game.

The actual DiMaggio quote (though it appears in various forms depending on the source):

“There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time, I owe him my best." - Joe DiMaggio, The Sporting News, April 4, 1951.

The Nationals that Baker sent out had a tough task, facing Mets’ right-hander Jacob deGrom, though he came into the outing in something of a slump, (1-4) in five starts with a 4.31 ERA and a .277/.313/.445 line against in 31 13 innings pitched over that stretch.

deGrom held the Nats to one run on five hits over 7 23 innings, striking out 10 batters in what ended up a 4-2 win.

The Nationals rallied late with one run off deGrom in the eighth and another off closer A.J. Ramos in the ninth when they loaded the bases for the Mets’ right-hander locked down the save.

What did the Nats’ skipper attribute the offensive struggles and late rally to?

“A lot it had to do with deGrom out there,” Baker said. “He was tough on some of our guys, the guys that even weren’t playing. I think Anthony [Rendon] was like 0 for 16, and the only guy that hit him pretty good was [Ryan Zimmerman] and he wasn’t in the lineup.

“Michael Taylor’s like 0 for 17, and all the guys that were out of the lineup, [Matt] Wieters hit him pretty good, but then the last inning we were threatening.”

The Nationals did almost tie it too, when Rendon hit a line drive to left that tailed foul but almost sailed out. Rendon ended up walking with one down to put two on in front of Wieters, who walked to load the bases, but Howie Kendrick lined out to right and Andrew Stevenson K’d looking to end the game.

“We thought Anthony’s ball had a chance to leave,” Baker said, “and then Howie hits the ball extremely hard to right and too shallow, and just pure perseverance and not wanting to lose, that’s what I attribute that last inning to.”