Murphy delivers again for Nats: "He's carrying our team"

PHILADELPHIA - Daniel Murphy isn't going to do this the entire season. It's just not possible in this day and age to do what only a handful have come close to doing in the 75 years since Ted Williams last broke the .400 barrier.

But Memorial Day has now come and gone, and Murphy still owns a .395 batting average, so why shouldn't the Nationals enjoy every moment of this remarkable run? Especially on nights like this, when Murphy not only produces but produces in big spots to help lift his team to victory.

"It's been incredible," Bryce Harper said. "He's carrying our team. He's doing everything possible in our lineup to keep us going."

Murphy's latest heroics came during tonight's 4-3 win over the Phillies, a win that simply would not have been possible without the performance of baseball's current best pure hitter.

For six innings, he represented the entirety of the Nationals' offensive production against Jeremy Hellickson. Murphy was 2-for-2 with a double and a homer. Everybody else was 0-for-18.


And then, after his teammates set the table in the top of the eighth, Murphy completed an impressive rally, lacing a two-out, two-run single to right off reliever Hector Neris to give the Nats the lead for good.

Where would these guys be without the second baseman they signed to a modest $37.5 million contract after missing out on Ben Zobrist and Brandon Phillips?

"I don't know," manager Dusty Baker said. "We wouldn't be close, especially offensively. You don't know who else we would have had, but he certainly couldn't have been any better than Daniel Murphy. ... We're glad we have him. He's an outstanding citizen, good man and a heck of a ballplayer."

Murphy's game-winning hit capped off a furious rally that saw the Nationals storm back from a 2-1 deficit in the eighth. Neris, who entered the day with a 1.29 ERA and a .138 opponents' batting average, put himself in a jam by walking Danny Espinosa and Ben Revere, bringing Jayson Werth to the plate with one out.

Werth, who earlier had struck out twice and grounded out weakly to first base, turned on a 1-1 splitter over the plate, lining it to left field to bring home Espinosa with the tying run.

Neris then walked Chris Heisey, the emergency No. 3 hitter after Harper departed an inning earlier upon getting hit in the right knee with a pitch, loading the bases for Murphy.

There is perhaps no player in baseball who avoids talking about himself more than Murphy, who steadfastly has refused to offer much insight into his torrid run at the plate that goes all the way back to the end of last season with the Mets. But a common theme throughout has been the fact he finds himself batting with men on base, an advantageous scenario.

"Traffic on the base paths helps, in that fourth at-bat," he said. "High-leverage situations for the pitcher always, I think, favor the hitter. When they're in high-leverage situations, you can wait to get a good pitch to hit. That last at-bat I had, there was a lot of traffic out there. I was just the beneficiary of it tonight."

And the Nationals have been the beneficiary of the best two months of offense in team history, from a guy who has somehow managed to turn from a very good hitter into a stunningly great hitter.

"He was always a gamer, but I think as the season went on last year, he really started to figure things out the last couple months," Werth said. "I really think it progressed his game to a whole new level. And I think we're reaping the rewards of it."

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