One of the main reasons the Dodgers went home after the 2015 National League Division Series figures to give them another test in the 2016 NLDS, only this time with a different team. Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy has battled a strained glute muscle for thee weeks, but seems likely to start in Game 1 on Friday in Washington D.C.
Murphy had one of the great postseason runs of all time in 2015 for the Mets, hitting .328/.391/.714 with seven home runs, including an MLB postseason record with a home run in six straight games. Against the Dodgers he was 7-for-21 (.333) with three home runs and a double in five games, including the game-winning home run against Zack Greinke in the sixth inning of Game 5.
But the play that resonated most with the Dodgers, that stuck in their craw all offseason, was scoring the tying run on a sacrifice fly in the fourth. The only reason Murphy was on third base is because the Dodgers were shifted defensively when Lucas Duda walked, and Murphy noticed that third base was unoccupied.
On Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was asked if his team learned anything from last year’s playoff experience.
"Covering third base in a shift,” Friedman answered, immediately.
Murphy carried over his hot postseason into 2016 after signing as a free agent with the Nationals, emerging as a legitimate MVP candidate by hitting .347/.390/.595 with 25 home runs, 47 doubles and five triples.
But his last start was Sept. 17, and over thhe final 14 games of the regular season his playing time was limited to three pinch-hit appearances.
Murphy worked out with the Nationals on Wednesday at Nationals Park, and while nothing has been finalized he is expected to start at second base for Washington on Friday afternoon, even if he isn’t at full strength. Per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post:
“I don’t like trying to predict the future. I’ve been really poor at it in my career,” Murphy said. “I felt really good today. I think today was a step in the right direction. See how we respond tomorrow. Get some work in tomorrow. See Friday.”
Nationals Manager Dusty Baker and General Manager Mike Rizzo both said they expect Murphy to be ready for the Dodgers in Game 1 Friday, but Murphy has yet to commit.
“Would you take 80 percent of Daniel Murphy or 100 percent of somebody else? This guy knows what it’s like to be in the playoffs and to be a playoff hero. He has a pretty good idea, and he knows his body,” Baker said. “He’s been working hard at this. He’s been working so hard at this. I’m proud of how he worked and how he wants to come back. We’re going to give him that opportunity.”
The Nationals haven’t made anything official with their rotation after Max Scherzer in Game 1, but Scherzer pitched during Tuesday’s workout, and right-hander Tanner Roark pitched to hitters on Wednesday, suggesting he might start Game 2. Gio Gonzalez, a left-hander, would be the other option for Game 2.
Tanner Roark is throwing live BP right now. pic.twitter.com/QIuSGLR1Fj— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) October 5, 2016
Dusty Baker still won't announce Nationals rotation beyond Max Scherzer in Game 1.— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) October 5, 2016
The Dodgers flew into Washington D.C. on Wednesday, and are holding a workout this evening.
The Nationals have an eclectic pair of ceremonial first pitches
#Nats announce Livan Hernandez will throw out the first pitch before Game 1, with Adam and Drake LaRoche for Game 2.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) October 5, 2016
The team later clarified that Drake LaRoche will catch the Game 2 first pitch from his dad, who played with the Nationals from 2011-2014.
Here is the logo getting painted on the field at Nationals Park.