LIVE game thread: Nats go for sweep at Fenway

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LIVE game thread: Nats go for sweep at Fenway

BOSTON -- No, they won't have Bryce Harper in their lineup today. (The 19-year-old is dealing with tightness in his lower back, according to Davey Johnson.) Nonetheless, the Nationals will still have an opportunity to sweep the Red Sox this afternoon at Fenway Park.

With Harper sidelined, left-hander Jon Lester on the mound for Boston and the DH needed, Johnson has a very different lineup today. Xavier Nady is in right field and batting in Harper's usual No. 2 spot. Tyler Moore will be in left field, with Roger Bernadina taking over in center. Jesus Flores, meanwhile, catches for the third straight game (even in a day game after a twilight game yesterday).

Jordan Zimmermann makes the start for the Nationals, looking to beat the Red Sox for the second time in his career. He did it to them as a rookie in 2009, impressing then Boston manager Terry Francona and others.

Updates to come, so please check the Nats Insider live game thread...

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at BOSTON RED SOX
Where: Fenway Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, Ch. 50, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 177
Weather: Sunny, 75 degrees, Wind 11 mph in from RF

NATIONALS (34-23)
2B Danny Espinosa
RF Xavier Nady
3B Ryan Zimmerman
DH Michael Morse
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Tyler Moore
C Jesus Flores
CF Roger Bernadina
(RHP Jordan Zimmermann)

RED SOX (29-30)
CF Scott Podsednik
2B Dustin Pedroia
1B Adrian Gonzalez
DH David Ortiz
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
3B Will Middlebrooks
RF Ryan Sweeney
SS Nick Punto
LF Darnell McDonald
(LHP Jon Lester)

UMPIRES
HP Al Porter, 1B Paul Nauert, 2B Doug Eddings, 3B Dana DeMuth (cc)

Dusty Baker: Daniel Murphy 'more than I think anybody dreamed that he would be'

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Dusty Baker: Daniel Murphy 'more than I think anybody dreamed that he would be'

Amid a torrid start to his season, Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy will be given the night off by manager Dusty Baker for Thursday's series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The 31-year-old Murphy — a revelation since he signed with the Nats in January at three years, $37.5 million — leads the majors with a .394 batting average and is second with a 1.043 on-base plus slugging mark. 

"He's been more than I think anybody dreamed that he would be," Baker said before Thursday's game. 

Even more amazing is that Murphy wasn't even the Nats' first option during baseball''s Hot Stove season. Baker mentioned that Washington's original target at that spot was Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, who was nearly traded to D.C. were it not for the team's reluctance to extend the veteran's contract. The Nats were also reportedly in on Ben Zobrist, who signed with the Chicago Cubs at four years, $56 million.

Given the early returns, suffice it say that Murphy is undoubtedly one of the best bargains of the offseason. 

"I'm glad we got Daniel Murphy," Baker said. "Big time....I don't think we could have done much better with a player [in free agency] than Murphy."

Mostly known as a good-but-not-great hitter throughout most of his seven-year tenure with the New York Mets, Murphy showed signs of a breakout during the latter part of 2015 after he altered his batting stance. Per a suggestion from Mets hitting coach Kevin Long, Murphy went to more of a crouch and crept up on the plate a little more. The tweak allowed him to pull the ball more and leverage his knack for making contact, which created a power stroke that hasn't dissipated since.

The change, while crucial to Murphy's impressive season, is also part of the reason he'll be monitored from time to time. But that's something Baker and the Nats are more than willing to accommodate him on — especially if he keeps putting up these kinds of numbers. 

"We [have] to watch him to keep his legs strong because he's always in a squat," Baker said. "So [the time off] is a day to get his legs worked on and get everything back strong 'till the next day off."

Murphy gets day off as Nationals begin series vs. Cardinals

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Murphy gets day off as Nationals begin series vs. Cardinals

Nats (28-18) vs. Carinals (24-23) at Nationals Park

The Nationals welcome the St. Louis Cardinals to town on Thursday for the first of a four-game series. Joe Ross (3-4, 2.70) will face the Cardinals for the second time this season, having allowed one run through six innings in a Nats win on April 30.

Opposite Ross will be right-hander Mike Leake, whom the Nationals showed interest in during this past winter's free agency. He is 3-3 with a 4.07 ERA this season. Leake faced the Nats on April 29 and fave up five earned runs in seve innings in a Nats' win.

Both teams will be without star infielders in this one. Daniel Murphy is getting the day off to rest, while Cardinals All-Star Matt Carpenter is out for a few days as his wife gives birth.

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, XM 183
Starting pitchers: Nats - Joe Ross vs. Cardinals - Mike Leake

NATS

CF Ben Revere
LF Jayson Werth
2B Daniel Murphy
1B Ryan Zimmerman
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
2B Stephen Drew
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Joe Ross

CARDINALS

CF Jeremy Hazelbaker
SS Aledmys Diaz
1B Matt Adams
RF Stephen Piscotty
LF Brandon Moss
C Yadier Molina
2B Kolten Wong
3B Greg Garcia
RHP Mike Leake

Follow along with GameView here

Podcast - 'Baseball in the District' - Are Nats better than the Mets?

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Podcast - 'Baseball in the District' - Are Nats better than the Mets?

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The Nationals just wrapped up their series against the Mets, making this a good time to discuss where they stand in the NL East and what they still need to work on.

Tim Murray and I went into the Mets series and what we learned. We also gave our thoughts on the Matt Harvey disaster and whether he should have spoken to the media.

Tim and I compared Daniel Murphy's numbers to those of Brandon Phillips and Ben Zobrist, the other two players the Nats targeted this offseason to play second base. We also wondered the best way to use Michael Taylor and whether he should be dangled at the trade deadline.

Feel free to share your opinions with us on Twitter @ChaseHughesCSN and @1TimMurray.

You can listen to the show on ESPN 980's website or download the show on iTunes.