Murphy homer lifts Nationals over Mets
NEW YORK — Jacob Rhame has only been with his new team for three weeks, but it took him just six pitches Saturday night to learn what current and former New York Mets have known for two years: Daniel Murphy owns his former team.
Murphy continued to torment the Mets by hitting the tiebreaking homer leading off the 10th inning Saturday night to lift the Washington Nationals to a 4-3 win at Citi Field.
Murphy spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Mets and helped spark their run to the World Series in 2015 by hitting .421 with seven homers during the National League Division Series and NL Championship Series. But New York made no attempt to re-sign Murphy, who eventually inked a three-year deal with the Nationals in January 2016.
Since then, all Murphy has done is remind the Mets his October 2015 performance was no fluke. Murphy went 2-for-5 Saturday and is now hitting .390 with nine homers and 35 RBIs in 37 games against his former club.
“This was his prior home,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “I’m sure he has a lot of friends and people here, a lot of memories. So it’s always good to come back to where you had success.”
Rhame (0-1) was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 20 and promoted to the Mets on Sept. 1. He got ahead 1-2 in the count before Murphy stayed alive and fouled off a 2-2 slider. Murphy then hit Rhame’s next pitch, another slider, well beyond the center field fence.
Baker and Murphy both believe getting most of Friday off — Murphy flew out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of the Nationals’ 7-6 loss — was an even bigger factor in the second baseman’s most recent success against the Mets.
“Of all the guys on the team, a day off, you look at their averages (after a) day off, it really helps him and (Anthony) Rendon,” Baker said.
Murphy, who has played in 138 of the Nationals’ 154 games, is batting .309 (17-for-55) with four homers and 10 RBIs after a day off.
“I don’t know what my numbers are, but I feel fresher,” Murphy said. “I don’t know if it leads to success, but he’s done a great job here down the stretch of kind of managing our playing time. Hopefully we can sprint through the finish line of the regular season and into the Division Series.”
Murphy’s homer capped a comeback from a 3-0 deficit by the NL East champion Nationals (93-61), who are 4 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the race for the No. 1 seed in the NL.
The Mets (66-88) scored all their runs off Washington starter Stephen Strasburg in the third, when Brandon Nimmo hit an RBI double and Kevin Plawecki followed with a two-run single.
The Nationals chipped away in the fourth, when Adam Lind hit a two-run homer, and fifth, when Matt Wieters tied the game with a leadoff homer. Lind’s round-tripper was the 200th of his career.
Strasburg and five relievers combined to 22 of the final 24 batters they faced. Sammy Solis (1-0) threw a perfect ninth inning and Sean Doolittle earned his 23rd save of the season, and his 20th since the Nationals acquired him from the Oakland Athletics on July 16, by working around a two-out walk in the 10th.
Strasburg allowed the three runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out six over five innings.
Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard started for the Mets and threw a scoreless inning in his first major league action since he tore his right lat against the Nationals on April 30. Syndergaard allowed one hit while throwing just five pitches.
“It was great to see him out there,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “We’re going to see how he feels tomorrow and the next day and we’ll have him get himself ready, see if we can run him out there one more time.”
Matt Harvey, making his first professional relief appearance, followed Syndergaard and gave up three runs on four hits over four innings.
“I was actually pretty nervous, I didn’t really know what to do,” Harvey said. “Noah threw, I think, five pitches and I had to check with (bullpen coach) Ricky Bones if I was going in or not.”
Nori Aoki had two hits for the Mets.
NOTES: To make room for RHP Noah Syndergaard on the 40-man roster, the Mets transferred RHP Zack Wheeler (stress reaction in his right arm) to the 60-day disabled list. ... Before Saturday, Mets RHP Matt Harvey hadn’t pitched in relief since his sophomore season at North Carolina in 2009. ... Nationals RF Bryce Harper (left knee) and OF Michael Goodwin (left groin) each participated in a simulated game Saturday. ... Nationals RHP Shawn Kelley (right forearm) will undergo what Baker called “extensive testing” early next week. Kelley left Friday’s game with numbness in his right arm.