Daniel Murphy went 3-for-4 with a homer, a double and two RBIs during the Nationals’ 10-5 victory over the Braves on Tuesday night, but he might’ve had an even greater impact on the proceedings in the field than at the plate.
And in spite of a bizarre confrontation with an umpire in the top of the second inning.
Murphy fielded six grounders hit his way during the game, turning two of them into above-average double plays. That included a first-inning 4-6-3 on a hot shot by Nick Markakis in which Murphy managed to field the ball and flip to Trea Turner covering second base to get the speedy Ender Inciarte even when the Braves leadoff man was running on the pitch.
“Oh, man, he played Gold Glove second base tonight,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He works hard at it.”
Murphy’s longstanding reputation as an excellent hitter who muddles his way through defense will stick with him throughout his career, but the Nationals continually praise him for his effort and improvement in the field.
“He’s been great,” said right-hander Joe Ross, who benefited from five of Murphy’s six plays Tuesday night. “Definitely compared to his first few months of the season last year. Really improved, done great. He doesn’t always look the smoothest, but he’s making a lot of plays. He made some good ones tonight. Obviously, he’s hitting. So, you can’t really ask for much more.”
Despite all he did to contribute to Tuesday’s win, Murphy’s most memorable moment might well have had nothing to do with a ball put into play, but rather his heated exchange with second base umpire Alan Porter in the top of the second.
With a runner on second, Porter stationed himself in between the mound and the base, skewed toward the right side of the infield. Murphy asked the umpire to move because he was in the path of a potential grounder hit to his right, but Porter refused to comply.
The two started jawing at each other from afar. Then, after turning his back on Murphy, Porter was caught by MASN cameras muttering an expletive at him.
“It look liked Murphy had asked him to move, because he didn’t want to get blocked if a ball was hit to his right, and for some reason he refused to move,” Baker said. “I don’t understand it. I’m sure he had a reason, but he didn’t give that reason to Murphy.”
Murphy downplayed the incident and insisted all was good by night’s conclusion.
“Alan and I talked,” Murphy said. “I think we both understand we’ve got a job to do, and we were both able to discuss and work through that. By the end of the game, there were no problems whatsoever. I don’t foresee there being any problems in the future, either.”