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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]

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2017 MLB Power Rankings: The Dodgers don't lose anymore

2017 MLB Power Rankings: The Dodgers don't lose anymore

The Dodgers are living their best life right now. 

Cody Bellinger looks like he's just going to go and hit two home runs a game for the rest of the year, Yasiel Puig is fun again and they're fresh off a 10-game win streak. Kenley Janson went 112 batters without issuing a walk. All of this is coming, by the way, during a year when Clayton Kershaw is more Very Good than he is Great. It's a good time to be a fan of an incredibly young and talented team in a top-5 market with a well-regarded front office that's been written a blank check. How did everyone not named the Dodgers do this week? To the rankings! 

2017 MLB POWER RANKINGS

30. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

2017 Record: 24-49
Previous Ranking: 30
Last 10 Games: 3-7
Notable Performance:  Maikel Franco (.333/.419/.481 last week)

And there goes Maikel Franco, right back on the trade block. The Phillies' rebuild is starting to look a lot murkier. 

29. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

2017 Record: 27-50
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Notable Performance: Brandon Belt (.316/.409/.947 last week)

It's weird to see the Giants play THIS poorly. Johnny Cueto is arguably the best available starter on the trade market though, and that obviously bodes well for their future. 

28. CINCINNATI REDS

2017 Record: 29-38
Previous Ranking: 27
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Notable Performance: Joey Votto (.360/.385/.680 last week)

When you go 1-9 over the last 10 and let the Nats put an 18-spot on you, you drop a spot or two in the rankings. Them's the rules. 

27. SAN DIEGO PADRES

2017 Record: 31-44
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Notable Performance: Yangervis Solarte (.364/.462/.909 last week)

In an annual July tradition, the Padres will fleece someone for one of their relievers. Brad Hand in a Dodgers uniform, anyone? 

26. DETROIT TIGERS

2017 Record: 32-42
Previous Ranking: 15
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Notable Performance: Miguel Cabrera (.400/.444/.840 last week)

The Tigers are our biggest fallers of the week. 2-8 in their last 10, including a frustrating Perfect Game bid broken up by a bunt single. Not their best week. 

SEE THE REST OF THE RANKINGS HERE

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Ten very good Pups in the Park who don't care that the Nats lost

Ten very good Pups in the Park who don't care that the Nats lost

Nationals Park opened its gates to dogs on Sunday for "Pups in the Park." Humans and their doggos got to sit in outfield section 140-143 with tickets being $30 per person and $10 per canine.

The Nationals ended up losing to the Reds, but that didn't put a damper on the afternoon for the guests of honor. 

Sometimes, its a blessing not to know what's going on. Just check out these ten happy puppers. 

1. Teddy, who's cuter than any racing president

2. Steve, who looks great in hats

Steve the dog 🐶 showing his natitude #pupsinthepark #nats

A post shared by Jen (@see_jho_run) on

3. Penny, who probably wasn't easy to carry around

Today was a good day to be Penny. #ballgame⚾️ #natsbestbuds #pupsinthepark

A post shared by Sheri (@pennysmom87) on

We took her out to the ball game! #pupsinthepark #natsbestbuds

A post shared by Sheri (@pennysmom87) on

4. Apollo, a Nats fan from a young age

5. Ellie, who plans to use this photo for #TongueOutTuesday

6. Auryn, who isn't even watching the game

Happiest little corgi in the park #aurynthedog @viano_perez #pupsinthepark #nats

A post shared by Taylor Pittman (@taylorp712) on

7. Moussie, who trimmed his beard just for the occasion

MOUSSIE IN THE PARK ⚾️🐶

A post shared by emma (@emmajekowsky) on

8. Dasher, obviously the favorite granddog

9. Bentley and Abby, whose moms can be overbearing 

Enjoying #pupsinthepark at @nationals game! #Bentley #Abby #ForcedPhotos 🐶🐶⚾️

A post shared by Mary Kennedy (@mkay0310) on

10. PJ, who squeezed into this selfie at the last minute

It's #pupsinthepark day at #nationals park. PJ is ready for a big Nats win!

A post shared by Luke Reeves (@lreevesm) on

Washington is now 13-19 in days games this season, significantly worse than their 31-11 night record. But these furry friends don't know that!

MORE NATIONALS: Roark's shaky start dooms Nats in loss to Reds