NEW YORK - Daniel Murphy will never admit it, but make no mistake how much he is enjoying tormenting a Mets organization that made no serious effort to re-sign him last winter despite his consistent track record and historic postseason performance that helped lead the franchise to its first pennant in 15 years.
Murphy hides his emotions well, and he expertly refuses to take the bait whenever he’s asked to comment on his individual exploits, let alone when he does it to his former team as he did tonight during the Nationals’ 6-1 victory at Citi Field.
But those who know him best, and really anyone who has ever had the opportunity to get revenge against an employer that let you go or a love interest that dumped you, can see the significance of all this to him.
“It definitely means a lot to them,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He has a lot of friends over there and former teammates, and probably still friends. Anybody that’s been traded, or played on a roster and their team didn’t sign them, or whatever it was, it definitely means more when you’re playing your old team.”
Murphy has done it to the Mets just about every time he has faced them this season. Tonight, he took his revenge tour to another level, going 3-for-4 with a homer, four RBIs and a walk to lead the Nationals to another win over their division rivals.
The veteran second baseman has now faced the Mets 12 times. He has recorded at least one hit in all 12 games. He has hit six home runs. He has driven in 19 runs.
“Oh my gosh, how many superlatives can you say?” raved starter Max Scherzer, whose seven innings of three-hit ball earned him his 10th win. “This guy is absolutely hitting the cover off the ball. He just understands what he’s doing at the plate, has such a great feel for the strike zone. And when he gets his pitch, he hits it. Man, he’s hitting these guys pretty good.”
True to form, Murphy deflected all praise for himself and spread it to the collective team effort that produced its second straight win over New York and expanded its lead in the National League East to five games heading into Sunday’s first-half finale.
“Anything I’ve done is exciting because that’s a really good club,” Murphy said. “So any time you come in here and put yourself in a position to win a series, you’re excited about it.”
Murphy’s performance in this one was spread throughout the evening. He singled home a run in the top of the third. He doubled home a run in the top of the fifth. He launched a two-run homer off left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo in the top of the seventh. And with a chance to hit for the cycle in the top of the ninth, he battled his way through a long at-bat before drawing a walk.
“The thing about Murphy, he does what Luke Appling told me to do. He said: ‘Don’t give them away. Don’t give away at-bats,’ ” Baker said. “He certainly could have given that one away going for the cycle, but he didn’t. He stayed within himself. Rarely does he over-swing and rarely does he give away at-bats.”
Certainly not when he’s facing the Mets and reminding everyone in Queens what they’re missing this year.
“We’ve seen it,” New York manager Terry Collins told reporters. “He’s pumped up to play against us and show us we made a mistake. It’s human nature, and it’s part of the game. We’ve just got to make better pitches. We’re giving him balls to hit. You look at the tape at the end of games and, boy, they’re all good pitches to hit. We’ve got to do a better job.”