NEW YORK - Daniel Murphy is back to terrorizing his former team again. Not to mention tearing the cover off the ball again.
Murphy launched a grand slam off Zack Wheeler in the top of the first inning tonight, helping the Nationals take a quick 4-0 lead on the Mets in their series finale at Citi Field.
The Nats loaded the bases before ever making an out, with Wheeler plunking Adam Eaton on his second pitch, then Trea Turner legging out an infield single and Bryce Harper shooting a base hit through the left side of the infield.
Ryan Zimmerman struck out looking at an 0-2 pitch, but then Murphy followed by crushing Wheeler’s 1-0 pitch deep to center field, the third grand slam of his career and the third grand slam hit by the Nationals in the last five days. (Harper and Zimmerman each did it Wednesday night in Atlanta.)
The sparse Sunday night crowd at Citi Field booed Murphy, who has owned his old team since signing with the Nationals in 2016. The second baseman recorded at least one hit in all 19 head-to-head games last season, and though he went 0-for-4 Friday night to end that streak, he has started a new one since with three hits in his last six at-bats.
As great a hitter as Murphy has become, he has found a way to elevate his numbers even more with - as he likes to call it - “traffic on the bases.” Over the last three seasons, he’s now hitting .520 (13-for-25) with two homers, 36 RBIs and a 1.458 OPS with the bases loaded.
The Mets did respond to Murphy’s slam with Michael Conforto’s leadoff homer off Max Scherzer in the bottom of the first. And just when it looked like Scherzer was settling in, he surrendered another blast, this time a two-run shot by Neil Walker that has trimmed the Nationals’ lead to 4-3 after three innings.
Scherzer had not allowed a home run in his first three starts this season, but his woes from last year (when he led the league with 31 homers surrendered) have resurfaced tonight.
Update: Both pitchers have found their groove, keeping this a 4-3 game through five innings. They’ve both also benefitted from some excellent infield defense. Asdrubal Cabrera started a nifty 6-4-3 double play on a broken-bat grounder by Turner (who shockingly has hit into three double plays in only 27 at-bats this season) to end the top of the fifth. Zimmerman then made a nice snag of Cabrera’s hot smash to first and whipped a submarine-style throw to Turner at shortstop to complete a 3-6 double play that got Scherzer out of the fifth.
Update II: Zimmerman delivers a huge insurance run, launching a two-run bomb off Josh Smoker in the top of the eighth. It’s his sixth homer of the year, and it puts the Nats up 6-3. Scherzer, meanwhile, has thrown 93 pitches through seven innings. He may have a case to go the distance tonight.
Update III: It’s over. Nats win 6-3 and sweep their second straight road series. They’ve won seven in a row overall. Koda Glover wound up notching his second straight save, recording the final three outs to end this one.