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Daniel Murphy adds to his October resume in Nationals' Game 2 win over Dodgers

Daniel Murphy adds to his October resume in Nationals' Game 2 win over Dodgers

Postseason heroics are nothing new for Daniel Murphy. It’s how he made his name in 2015 as a member of the New York Mets, as they rode his hot streak at the plate all the way to a World Series appearance.

The magic from last October hasn’t dissipated; Murphy would sign a three-year, $37.5 million contract with the division rival Nationals and prove his torrid stretch was no fluke. He turned in a career year (.347 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI) that put him squarely in the NL MVP discussion.   

So even if he would be in a different uniform this time around, the Nats didn't have any reason to expect that Murphy wouldn't excel on game’s biggest stage. 

“He wants to be in that position,” manager Dusty Baker said. “That’s where it starts. You have to want to be in that position.”

Indeed, Murphy has picked up where he left off last postseason. While Jose Lobaton had the big blow in Sunday’s 5-2 win, the 31-year-old second baseman did his part by going 3-for-3 with run with a pair of crucial RBI singles.  

The three-hit effort raised Murphy's career playoff average to .359 (18-for-64) over 16 games.

“He's just a great player,” left fielder Jayson Werth said afterward. “What he did last year down the stretch, he's been able to hold on to that and keep it going. It's really cool to see. Obviously a big part of our team.”

“He's one of the best in baseball,” added right fielder Bryce Harper. “That's the MVP this year. He did it the right way and bringing it on to the postseason.”

Murphy’s had quite the 12 month-stretch, and yet he hasn’t spent much of it patting himself on the back. Instead, he’s quick to point to his teammates for his success.

“One of the first things that I’ve been fortunate to be in is a really good spot in two really good lineups,” said Murphy, who’s batted cleanup for most of this season. “...I get to reap the benefits of guys on base in front of me and guys swinging the bat well behind me.”

On Sunday, Murphy gave the Nats what they had been missing in their previous two playoff trips in 2012 and 2014. He especially excelled with runners in scoring position, spraying singles to right and center field to plate insurance runs after Washington grabbed a 3-2 fourth-inning lead.

For a lineup that sometimes gets too keen on hitting the long ball, Murphy’s approach is a welcome sight.

 “I think that's what experience gives you," first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "Being in the big leagues now for seven years like he has, and having been in those RBI situations where you know the pitcher is not going to give in, he just does such a good job of sticking with it.”

Perhaps the only reason anyone would have thought Murphy wouldn’t perform was because of his strained left glute he suffered in mid-September. With the Nats virtually assured a playoff spot at the time, they shut their best hitter down for the rest of the regular season in hopes to get him closer to full strength for the playoffs.

So far, so good, as Murphy’s resembled exactly the type of October hero Washington needs him to be. 

“[He] didn't play for three weeks, and now he's raking again,” Harper said “He's just incredible. A lot of fun to watch. We need that out of him, and [it was] huge game for him." 

MORE: NATIONALS BULLPEN, USED EARLY AND OFTEN, COMES UP BIG

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Nationals six-game winning streak comes to an end in Los Angeles

Nationals six-game winning streak comes to an end in Los Angeles

The book on Alex Meyer was pretty clear: big stuff, bigger control problems.

Not so much Wednesday night for the 6-foot-9 right-hander.

Meyer executed nearly to perfection while allowing a hit and a walk over seven innings and leading the Los Angeles Angels to a 7-0 victory that ended the Washington Nationals' six-game winning streak.

MORE NATS: NATS BOLSTER BULLPEN

"We really didn't have much of a chance," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "Our reports were he didn't have very good command, but he did tonight."

Meyer (4-5) had a perfect game until he walked Anthony Rendon with two outs in the fifth. He lost his no-hitter with two outs in the sixth when Brian Goodwin doubled down the right-field line.

Meyer, Rendon and Goodwin were all first-round draft picks by the Nationals in 2011.

"I went to breakfast with (Goodwin) this morning and paid for it," Meyer said. "I'll have to talk to him about that."

Meyer had been plagued by walks this season (41 in 60 1/3 innings) but had just the one free pass in a career-high seven innings. He struck out seven.

David Hernandez and Jose Alvarez each threw a scoreless, hitless inning to complete the one-hitter. It was only the second time this season the Nationals have been shut out.

"To make outs the way he did says a lot about his upside and potential," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Mike Trout and C.J. Cron each hit two-run homers to support Meyer. For Trout, it was his 18th of the season.

Gio Gonzalez (8-5) started for the Nationals but gave up a pair of first-inning runs on Albert Pujols' single and Andrelton Simmons' sacrifice fly, and it was all the runs Los Angeles would need.

Washington outfielder Bryce Harper did not play in the nationally televised game. It was a scheduled day off.

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Zimmerman sets franchise HR record, Nationals beat Reds 6-1

Zimmerman sets franchise HR record, Nationals beat Reds 6-1

The NL East leaders opened the second half of the season with a franchise record, a series sweep and a significant upgrade -- exactly how the Nationals wanted to keep their momentum going.

Ryan Zimmerman set the Nationals' career home run record with a solo shot, and Bryce Harper connected again on Monday as Washington powered its way to a 6-1 victory for a four-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds.

Zimmerman's 235th career homer moved him ahead of Vladimir Guerrero for most in Expos and Nationals history. Guerrero quickly tweeted congratulations , saying he doesn't mind being second.

"It's special to be in one place your entire career," said Zimmerman, in his 12th season with the team that made him a first-round draft pick. "You can't do stuff like this if you're not in the same place for a long time. So I feel very lucky to have spent my entire career here, honored to have hit more home runs than any Expo or National. It's cool."

The Nationals emerged from the All-Star break with an emphatically successful series -- 13 homers, including three by Harper, and 35 runs overall by the league's top offense. It was the Nationals' first four-game sweep of the Reds and left them 6-1 against Cincinnati this season.

Washington improved to a season-high 20 games over .500 (56-36) with its ninth victory in 11 games.

The Nationals' roster got a little better during the series, too. Washington shored up its weak bullpen by getting relievers Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from Oakland on Sunday. They'll join the team in Los Angeles for the start of a series against the Angels on Tuesday.

"We know we have a good team and we've put ourselves in a good spot to start the second half, but we've got a ways to go," Zimmerman said. "Obviously we acquired two talented guys for the bullpen, and we'll just try to keep scoring runs so that they can come in and lock the games up."

Stephen Strasburg (10-3) recovered from his shortest start of the season by fanning 11 in seven innings and allowing four hits, including Eugenio Suarez's homer. Strasburg left his last start -- a 13-0 loss to Atlanta on July 8 -- after Nick Markakis' liner deflected off his hip in the third inning.

He allowed only two hits -- including an infield single -- in his last five innings.

"Your body wants to pretend it's the offseason," Strasburg said of the break between starts. "It took a little while to get going."

Scott Feldman (7-7) lasted only one inning, limited by a stiff right knee that has been bothering him. He gave up a double, a single, Harper's three-run homer and Zimmerman's solo shot in his first 12 pitches. Feldman left after facing nine batters and giving up five runs on 33 pitches.

"It wouldn't loosen up," Feldman said of the knee. "It was one of those days. I put the team in a tough spot. We were down five runs right off the bat."

Harper's homer extended his hitting streak to 12 games. Brian Goodwin's solo shot made it 6-1 in the sixth.

4 FOR 4

The last time the Nationals swept a four-game series was last season against Atlanta. It was the 11th four-game sweep in Nationals history.

KEEP RUNNING

Daniel Murphy scored from second base on Matt Wieter's fly out in the first inning, turning it into a sacrifice fly. Right fielder Scooter Gennett made a diving catch in the gap and then stumbled and dropped the ball while trying to get up, giving Murphy enough time to make it home.

STATS

It was Strasburg's sixth double-digit strikeout game of the season and the 35th of his career. ... Anthony Rendon extended his hitting streak to 11 games. ... Nationals starters allowed only one run in the series. ... The 13 homers allowed in a series matched the Reds' club record.

NATIONALS MOVES

Washington called up right-hander Jacob Turner from Triple-A. Right-hander Koda Glover -- sidelined since April by a hip injury -- was moved to the 60-day DL.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: CF Michael Taylor hasn't yet started baseball-related activities as he recovers from a strained right oblique. He went on the DL on July 7.

Reds: C Devin Mesoraco began a rehab assignment at Triple-A Louisville. He'll play a few games and be re-evaluated. He's been sidelined since July 5 with a strained left shoulder.

UP NEXT

Nationals: They face the Angels for the first time since 2011. Washington is 6-7 in interleague play this season.

Reds: RHP Sal Romano (1-1) will be called up to make his third career start when the Reds face the Diamondbacks. He also started on April 16 against Milwaukee and July 6 at Colorado.