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Daniel Murphy returns to Nationals lineup for NLDS Game 1

Murphy last started for Washington on Sept. 17.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves
Daniel Murphy is back in the lineup for the Nationals for the first time in 20 days.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, Daniel Murphy is back in the starting lineup for the Nationals in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Dodgers, starting at second base and batting cleanup on Friday afternoon.

Murphy last started for the Nationals on Sept. 17, sidelined by a strained glute muscle. Over the final 14 games of the regular season, Murphy was limited to three plate appearances, all pinch-hitting opportunities. He played in some simulated games this week.

“He says he's ready and so, therefore, you know, we think he's ready. He did about everything that you could do simulating the game. Everything but slide,” Washington manager Dusty Baker said on Thursday. “He looked pretty good.”

The left-handed Murphy is 6-for-19 (.316) in his career against Clayton Kershaw with two home runs. Both long balls were hit in last year’s NLDS for the Mets, one each in Game 1 and Game 4.

Washington switched their lineup a little bit, moving Bryce Harper to the second spot for just the fifth time in 2016. Harper started 96 times in the third spot this year and 42 more times batting cleanup.

Harper and Murphy were back-to-back in the Nationals lineup 95 times in 2016, but today the left-handed batters are split up, with right-hander Jayson Werth in between. Should Grant Dayton or Luis Avilan — the Dodgers’ two left-handed relievers on the NLDS roster — be brought in, to face both Harper and Murphy would require going through Werth, a career .295/.395/.541 hitter against southpaws, including .322/.411/.620 this season.

The Dodgers lineup is pretty much as expected, already knowing the one relative surprise of Andrew Toles starting the opener.

The only slight change is Yasmani Grandal dropped to seventh after batting fifth in each of his last 19 starts against right-handed pitchers.