Quick Links

Murphy makes progress in pre-NLDS workout, Nats still expect him to start Game 1

Murphy makes progress in pre-NLDS workout, Nats still expect him to start Game 1

With two days left until their playoff opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Nationals still expect second baseman Daniel Murphy to be in the starting lineup for Game 1.

The 31-year-old, hampered by a left glute strain, spent Wednesday’s pre-NLDS workout making progress toward his first start since Sept. 17. Like Tuesday, he was seen taking batting practice and fielding ground balls at second base. The big step he took Wednesday was that he was able to run the bases successfully for the first time in a few weeks.

“I felt really good today,” a sweaty Murphy said at his locker shortly after the workout. “I think today was a step in the right direction. See how we respond tomorrow. Get some work in tomorrow. See Friday.”

“He's looking better every day,” added manager Dusty Baker. “He's moving around with more confidence.”

Murphy highlighted the importance of getting reps on the base paths, perhaps the area he’s been limited the most since the injury.  

“I think that’s the toughest part when you take some time off, replicating the turns,” he said. “The real answer to that is there’s things I’m not going to be able to replicate until the bell rings. Some of this stuff I won’t find out until I’m in game action.”

If all goes as expected and Murphy plays, he’ll return to the stage that made him a household name in 2015. While guiding the New York Mets to a World Series appearance, he slashed .328/.391/.724 with seven home runs and 11 RBI. And as fate would have it, the man who would be Murphy’s future manager had a front row seat to that torrid stretch as a broadcaster.

“I was at TBS for a couple of those games,” Baker said.  “I just thought 'nah, he can't do it again.' And the next thing you know, he does it again. Then it's like 'nah, he can't do it this time again.' And then he does it again. [The Mets] wouldn't have gotten there if it weren't for Daniel Murphy. It would have made it tough on us to get where we wanted to go without Daniel Murphy. Not only at the plate, but also his leadership on the field.”

Murphy, of course, parlayed his impressive postseason run by signing a three-year, $37.5 million contract with the Nats the following winter. Nearly a year later, he’s already outperformed that deal. He became Washington’s best hitter this season, putting himself into the NL MVP discussion by proving that his final act with the Mets was no fluke. 

And assuming Murphy's health allows him to embark on his second straight playoff appearance, the Nats will hope he'll be able to rekindle some of that 2015 magic. 

“I think the biggest thing is to enjoy the moment,” Murphy said. “…that's what I’ve learned from the postseason: enjoy the times, enjoy the goals you’ve accomplished because it allows you to stay in the moment a little more.”

[MORE: NATIONALS NOT OVERLY CONCERNED INJURIES WILL AFFECT DEFENSE IN PLAYOFFS]

Quick Links

Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

When Max Scherzer was a teenager, he didn't know that one day he'd actually become a two-time Cy Young Award winner. He had no guarantee he'd make it to the majors, much less play in five consecutive MLB All-Star games. 

All he knew was that he had the option to go pro as a kid or go to college, and back then, the Nationals' ace needed a contingency plan in case baseball didn't work out. Fortunately for Scherzer, it did, but he doesn't regret going to college at the University of Missouri, telling Santana Moss on CSN's "Route 89" going to school was a no-brainer.

"It was actually a really easy decision," Scherzer told Moss. "When you get drafted out of high school, you're going to be going into the minor leagues, and that can take three to five or six years — multiple years — in the minor leagues, and you're forfeiting your right to further your education."

Scherzer was drafted in the 43rd round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003, but he opted to play for Mizzou for three years, which turned out to be a great decision. The Arizona Diamondbacks then drafted him in 2006 in the first round as the 11th overall pick. 

"A lot of times when you sign out of high school, you don't make it to the major leagues," Scherzer continued. "So I realize that your education — that's your safety net.

"You need to further your education in college, and if you do get drafted out of college, you're in a much better position to try to chase your dreams because if it doesn't work out, you still have one year left of school and that's much easier to obtain rather than try to go through four years when you're not coming out of high school."

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg returns to the mound

Quick Links

Nationals offense provides no support in Strasburg's return

Nationals offense provides no support in Strasburg's return

SAN DIEGO -- Yangervis Solarte hit a two-run home run off Stephen Strasburg in the first inning of the right-hander's first start in almost a month and the San Diego Padres beat the Washington Nationals 3-1 Saturday night.

Strasburg (10-4) retired the first two batters he faced before allowing a single to Jose Pirela and then the homer to the switch-hitting Solarte, who drove a 96-mph fastball to right for his 13th.

Strasburg then settled down against his hometown team, retiring 10 straight batters and 13 of 14. He went six innings, allowing two runs and four hits while striking out eight and walking one.

He hadn't pitched since July 23, when he went only two innings at Arizona. He went on the disabled list with an elbow nerve impingement.

Strasburg pitched at West Hills High in suburban Santee and then at San Diego State for coach Tony Gwynn before going to the Nationals with the No. 1 pick overall in the 2009 draft.

While Strasburg pitched well, the Nationals had only three hits.

San Diego's Travis Wood (2-1) also settled down after laboring through the first inning, when he threw 35 pitches but didn't allow a run. He was unscathed until the fifth, when he allowed a one-out single to Jose Lobaton and a two-out double to Adrian Sanchez. The run was unearned because of Woods' throwing error on Strasburg's sacrifice bunt that advanced Lobaton.

Wood allowed just the unearned run on three hits in seven innings, with two strikeouts and two walks.

Brad Hand pitched the ninth for his 11th save.