NEW YORK — Daniel Murphy is torching major league pitching and no one is burned more than his former New York Mets teammates.
Murphy, who is leading the majors in hitting, homered for the sixth time this year against the Mets, drove in four runs, leading Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals over New York 6-1 Saturday night.
"Oh my gosh, how many superlatives can you say?" Scherzer said when asked about Murphy. "This guy is just absolutely hitting the cover off the ball. He just understands what he is doing at the plate. He has such a great feel for the strike zone and when he gets his pitch, he hits it, and he is hitting these guys pretty good."
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Murphy had a run-scoring single in the third inning, an RBI double in the fifth and launched his 16th home run in the seventh. He is hitting .349 overall — he’s batting .438 (21 of 48) with 19 RBIs against the Mets after becoming a free agent in the offseason and signing with Washington.
Murphy refused to discuss his accomplishments against the team that he led to the NL pennant.
His focus was on the Nationals, their season and winning this four-game series, with the Nats leading 2-1. Even being booed at Citi Field didn’t seem to draw a reaction.
"I guess it means you are doing something to help your ballclub win a game, against that team," Murphy said. "That’s the way I look at it."
The NL East leaders now have a five-game lead on the Mets. At 53-36, they set a team record for wins before the All-Star break, snapping the mark from 2005, the club’s first season in Washington after the move from Montreal.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker did not understand the booing. He added Murphy’s hitting reminded him of some of the great players he either played with or managed — Orlando Cepeda, Rico Carty, Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent and Moises Alou."
"He is not missing much," Baker said. "His concentration level is beyond compare right now."
Washington’s Daniel Murphy is congratulated by Bryce Harper after hitting a two-run home run against the Mets during the seventh inning Saturday in New York.
Baker is not surprised that Murphy has hit the Mets.
"Anybody who has gotten traded or came back to play their old team, definitely it means a lot to them," Baker said.
Mets manger Terry Collins said Murphy is taking advantage of mistakes.
"You know, he’s pumped up to play against us and show us we made a mistake," Collins said. "That’s human nature and it’s part of the game. We just got to make better pitches. We’re giving him balls to hit. They were good pitches to hit. We’ve got to do a better job."
Scherzer (10-6) gave up three hits and an unearned run in seven innings. He joined fellow Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg (12-0) in having 10 wins before the All-Star break.
Logan Verrett (3-6) gave up five runs on only four hits in 6 2/3 innings, but he was hurt by walks. His first three all scored, including one to Scherzer.
The Mets staked Verrett to a lead in the first. Jose Reyes drew a leadoff walk, Curtis Granderson followed with a single and both runners advanced on left fielder Jayson Werth’s throwing error back to the infield.
Scherzer minimized the damage, giving up a sacrifice fly to Neil Walker and striking out Asdrubal Cabrera and Brandon Nimmo. The hard-throwing righty cruised the rest of the way, fanning nine.
THE EYE HAS IT
After walking Alejando De Aza with two outs in the seventh, Baker considered taking out Scherzer. He went to the mound and asked the righty how he felt. The pitcher said he was still strong and wanted to finish the inning.
Baker wanted to see the look in Scherzer’s eye to confirm that, so he asked the pitcher which eye he should look at. Scherzer has a blue eye and a brown one.
"He said the expletive brown eye," Baker said with a laugh. The pitcher stayed in and got Travis d’Arnaud on a liner to left.
Scherzer explained after the game, the brown eye, his left one, is his pitching eye.
DE AZA STARTS: De Aza started for Cespedes in center field and and had two singles and a walk. He struck out to end the game with a heavy rain starting to fall and the fans getting up to leave.
Nationals: Baker expects Joe Ross (7-4) to return to the roster after the All-Star break, but he did not have an exact dathe te. Ross was placed on the 15-day disabled list earlier this month with right shoulder inflammation.
Mets: Noah Syndergaard (arm fatigue) and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes (strained right quadriceps) are not going to play in the All-Star Game in San Diego. Both will attend Tuesday’s game. There was no definitive word on how long they will be out, but Collins indicated that neither injury was major.
Washington’s Gio Gonzalez (4-8, 4.79 ERA) pitches Sunday against Steven Matz (7-4, 3.34) in a matchup of lefties. Gonzalez has lost seven of his past eight decisions, but he is 7-1 in his career at Citi Field, with a win this year. Matz has lost his past three decisions.