Nats finally appreciate Murphy's performance for themselves

ATLANTA - The Nationals had seen Daniel Murphy do this sort of thing to them plenty of times over the years. So when it happened Monday afternoon, when Murphy went 2-for-3 with a homer, two walks and the RBI double that ultimately gave them a 4-3, 10-inning victory on opening day, they relished the fact he's now doing this for their benefit, not detriment.

"Psh, quite a debut," shortstop Danny Espinosa said. "What else is there to say? I mean, he's a special hitter, a very smart hitter."

Murphy did it all during the Nationals' dramatic win over the Braves. He displayed the same power stroke that enraptured so many Mets fans last October during their run to the World Series. He displayed patience in drawing a pair of walks. And most importantly, he displayed his pure hitting technique during his final at-bat, the one that won the game.

Daniel-Murphy-fives-dugout-gray-sidebar.jpgAt the plate with one out, Ryan Zimmerman at second base and left-hander Eric O'Flaherty on the mound in the top of the 10th, Murphy didn't let the pressure of the moment get to him. He recalled the 10 previous times he faced O'Flaherty (which resulted in three hits, one of them a homer) plus his time watching the veteran reliever pitch as his teammate last season with the Mets, and decided on his plan of attack.

"He's tough on lefties," Murphy said. "Faced him for a lot of years. He's gonna run that two-seamer in on you, and it gets in there deep. He's got a really good arm. I was just trying to look for something out over the plate."

Sure enough, O'Flaherty came at Murphy hard and inside with two-seamers, but his first three offerings all were off the plate and called balls.

Now up 3-0 in the count, manager Dusty Baker gave Murphy the green light. Murphy took a fastball for strike one.

"I was letting him hit 3-0, and he chose not to hit 3-0 because it was inside," Baker said. "It must not have been where he wanted."

No, but O'Flaherty's 3-1 fastball - right down the pipe - was exactly where Murphy wanted it. He stuck out his bat and poked the ball down the left field line, coasting into second base as Zimmerman crossed the plate with the go-ahead run.

"Fortunately, I got one over the middle of the plate," Murphy said. "I didn't hammer it, by any stretch of the imagination, but it found outfield grass, and we take the lead."

Thus concluded his Nationals debut. Not that any of his new teammates needed to see it to be convinced, but they certainly appreciated being on the right side of a classic Daniel Murphy day at the plate.

"I've faced him enough to know that he can do that," right-hander Max Scherzer said.

"He's got that big league mentality," Bryce Harper said. "He's got that big approach. Being able to learn from a guy like that is huge. He knows what he wants to do up there. He's got his plan, what he wants to do, and it's a lot of fun to watch. Especially that he's in a Nationals uniform now. That's huge for us."

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