TOPPS NOW: Daniel Murphy Drives in Four Runs for the Washington Nationals

Daniel Murphy drove in 4 RBIs and had three hits in NLDS Game 4. Murphy drove in 2 RBIs in at bats against Clayton Kershaw.
Daniel Murphy drove in 4 RBIs and had three hits in NLDS Game 4. Murphy drove in 2 RBIs in at bats against Clayton Kershaw.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were clinging to their postseason lives entering Game 4 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine. Manager Dave Roberts made the decision to throw, three time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP, Clayton Kershaw on just three days rest.

Daniel Murphy, the 2015 NLCS MVP and 2016 NL runner-up for the batting title, continued his hot hitting this postseason against Kershaw.

Murphy, who hit a monster home run against Kershaw in the 2015 NLDS, put the Washington Nationals on the board in the first inning when he slapped a 1-1 curveball with runners on first and second base into right field to score Trea Turner.

The Nationals countered Kershaw with Joe Ross, who was making his MLB postseason debut. The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead the next half inning after Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run home run. Ross was on a short leash and was pulled in the third inning after surrendering another run.

Murphy drove in his second RBI of the game in the third inning when he hit a deep sacrifice fly off of Kershaw into center field which plated Turner and evened the game at 2-2.

Kershaw recorded 11 strikeouts in his outing and exited after loading the bases in the seventh inning.

The Nationals were able to pounce on the Dodgers bullpen just as they did Monday night. Werth did not have to swing the bat to make it a 5-3 game when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Murphy’s turn was next and he made Kershaw bury his face in his hands when he slapped a single to left center field off of Luis Avilan to score Turner and Bryce Harper. The game was tied 5-5 and Murphy had 4 RBIs on the night.

Daniel Murphy had his fingerprints all over the game. Topps released a limited edition Topps Now card celebrating Murphy’s performance even though the game slipped away in the eighth inning. The card will be available until 4:30pm on Thursday.

The Moment:

Daniel continued to do in Game 4 exactly what he’s done all season for Washington–come up with timely hits and drive runners in. Murphy went 2-3 with four RBI against starter Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, inflating his average this Postseason to .462 (6-for-13). Manager Dusty Baker on Murphy’s performance, “he knows how to hit…he comes through in the clutch.”

TOPPS NOW: NLDS Game 2 Daniel Murphy and Jose Lobaton Cards

Jose Lobaton crushed a 3-run home run in Game 2 of the NLDS which gave the Washingon Nationals a lead they never relinquished.
Jose Lobaton crushed a 3-run home run in Game 2 of the NLDS giving the Washingon Nationals a lead they never relinquished.

The Washington Nationals desperately needed a win Sunday afternoon to avoid having to fight for their postseason lives in Chavez Ravine just to force a decisive Game 5 in Washington.

Things did not get off to a strong start for the Nationals. Chase Utley got the Dodgers off to a 1-0 lead in the first inning after he slapped a line drive for a home run to right center field off Tanner Roark.

The Nationals offense came out flat against Rich Hill, a midseason acquisition from the Oakland Athletics, as he managed to strike out Trea Turner, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth.

Jose Lobaton was having an especially rough day. The Nationals back-up catcher, who played in just 39 regular season games during the regular season, squandered a bases loaded rally in the second inning  when he into an inning ending 1-2-3 double play on the first pitch he saw from Hill.

To make matters worse, Lobaton also mishandled a strong throw from Bryce Harper during a close play at the plate in the third inning. Lobaton could not handle the ball and reached across the plate to tag Justin Turner without the ball. The Dodgers now had a 2-0 lead which they held until the fourth inning.

The bad vibes surrounding Lobaton evaporated when he crushed a three-run home run into the visitor’s bullpen. It gave the Nationals a lead they would not relinquish.

Dave Jagler, a Washington Nationals play-by play announcer, enthusiastically described the scene at the ballpark after the home run.

“Delirium here at Nationals Park,” he said.

The moment brought everybody to their feet and kept the team fired up.

Daniel Murphy scored a run and drove in two runs as he went 3-for-3 with a walk in Game 2 of the NLDS.
Daniel Murphy scored a run and drove in two runs as he went 3-for-3 with a walk in Game 2 of the NLDS.

Daniel Murphy was one of the runners to score on the home run after reaching base on a walk. Murphy also had three hits in Game 2 including an RBI single in the 5th inning which chased Hill from the game and gave the Nationals a 4-2 lead. Murphy’s final hit of the game was another RBI single which scored Jayson Werth and gave the Nationals a 5-2 lead.

Topps Now released two limited edition baseball cards on Monday afternoon which celebrate the stellar Game 2 performances by Lobaton and Murphy. These baseball cards will be available until 4:30pm.

 

Moments:

(#558) The Washington Nationals trailed the Los Angeles Dodgers 2-0, in the bottom of the fourth inning, as they held a 1-0 deficit in the NLDS. With runners on first and second and two outs, Jose Lobaton delivered a clutch, three-run shot that put the Washington Nationals out in front for good, as they came away with an eventual, series-tying, 5-2 victory.
(#559) Daniel Murphy continues to rake in Postseason play. Murphy went 3-for-3 in Game 2 of the NLDS, accounting for two RBI and a run scored for the Washington Nationals. Murphy’s offensive efforts helped lead the Washington Nationals to a series tying, 5-2 win.

TOPPS NOW: Daniel Murphy Hits in All 19 Games vs. Mets in 2016 Season

Daniel Murphy tortured the New York Mets this season and the latest Topps Now card celebrates his 19-game hitting streak against his former team.
Daniel Murphy tortured the New York Mets this season and the latest Topps Now card celebrates his 19-game hit streak against his former team.

News broke on Christmas Eve that the Washington Nationals had finally come to a deal with a free agent. They had already missed out on big deals with Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward who signed with the Chicago Cubs, despite receiving more lucrative offers from the Nationals. This time, however, the Nationals got the man they wanted–Daniel Murphy–and they signed him to three-year $37.5 million contract.

Murphy rejected a one-year $15.8 million qualifying offer from the New York Mets after a miraculous postseason where he hit seven home runs in nine games and was named NLCS MVP. He hit just 14 home runs during the 2014 regular season and there were critics of the deal who thought the Nationals were paying for his hot postseason numbers.

Murphy began the season on a tear and entered the first game of a 19-game season series against the Mets on May 17 with a .400 AVG and 5 home runs. Fans gave him a warm ovation before the start of the game when a one-minute long video played on the videoboard. He was also cheered when he came up to bat in the second inning. 

The Nationals would explode on the Mets over the next two games. Boos replaced cheers almost immediately. Murphy drove in two runs on a single and a sacrifice fly in a 7-1 victory. Mets fans were even more critical the following night when Murphy hit a two-run home off, Mets “ace,” Matt Harvey and the Nationals bounced him from the game and the rotation with a 9-1 victory.

I was fortunate to witness this ownage at five of the 19 games this season including two games in New York. Perhaps my favorite exhibition of Murphy’s damage to the Mets came when the teams met in late June. Murphy had a monster solo home run into the second deck of Nationals Park above their bullpen to open the scoring for the day. Murphy made it a multi-home run affair in the eighth inning when he took Sean Gilmartin deep and drove in Bryce Harper to make it a 4-0 game.

The Nationals defeated the Mets 4-2 on June 29 thanks to a multi-homer game from Daniel Murphy.
The Nationals defeated the Mets 4-2 on June 29 thanks to a multi-homer game from Daniel Murphy.

Murphy has been the best player for the Nationals this season. He leads the major leagues with a .348 AVG. He is second to only Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz in other offensive metrics including .598 SLG and .991 OPS. Murphy also leads the National League in doubles (45)  is second to only Ortiz in the majors with 46.

Murphy, somehow, was able to save some of his best hitting for the matchups against the Mets. The Nationals won 12 of the games and Murphy made Mets fans regret their decision to let him walk by walking all over the Mets.

The latest Topps Now card commemorates Murphy’s success against the Mets. His historic 19-game hit streak is rivaled by only Lou Brock. Fans can purchase this limited edition card, that may as well be called the “Thanks for Murphy Card,” until 1pm on Friday.

The Moment:

With a first-inning single vs. the New York Mets on September 14th, Daniel Murphy capped off the first season of play vs. his former club by hitting in all 19 games played. The 19-game hit streak marks the longest single-season streak against any one team in the divisional era (1969), and also goes down as the longest streak by a player vs. his former club since Lou Brock’s 17-game streak in 1965 vs. the Chicago Cubs. All told, Murphy’s 2016 stats vs. the Mets round out to .413/.444/.567 with 7 HR and 21 RBIs.

Giveaway Review: Michael A. Taylor Fan Choice Bobblehead (Grade: B)

Friday night was the final bobblehead giveaway of the season. The first 25,000 fans received Michael A. Taylor fan choice bobbleheads.
Friday night was the final bobblehead giveaway of the season. The first 25,000 fans received Michael A. Taylor fan choice bobbleheads.

Friday night’s game between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies was the final bobblehead giveaway of the season. The first 25,000 fans at Nationals Park received a Michael A. Taylor fan choice bobblehead presented by MASN.

When the promotional schedule was announced, it was revealed that fans would have the opportunity to vote on which Nationals player would be featured as the September 9 bobblehead. The voting period went from Thursday, March 10 at 10 a.m. to Friday, March 11 at 10:00 a.m. and it was conducted on the Nationals website.

The ballot was long and allowed fans to choose from 31 players on the Nationals roster. Players who have been featured for a bobblehead or figurine giveaway were left off the ballot.

The fan choice bobblehead ballot listed 31 players with varying degrees of experience with the Nationals. (Washington Post)
The fan choice bobblehead ballot listed 31 players with varying degrees of experience with the Nationals. (Washington Post)

Some of the choices then seemed questionable. Were Phillies fans going to stuff the ballot box with votes for Jonathan Papelbon who, at the time, had an icy relationship with Nationals fans after choking Bryce Harper?

Should people vote for veterans Daniel Murphy or Oliver Perez even if they had not played a game for the Nationals?

It looked like Trea Turner would spend the season in the minor leagues. Was it worth voting for him?

Ultimately, it was revealed during an April 4 Opening Day TV broadcast that Taylor won the vote. Some fans were skeptical about the counting, but his victory may have had something to do with his hot spring training stats.

The Nationals (or Syracuse Chiefs) outfielder is portrayed in a home white uniform with a red cap running down a fly ball. This bobblehead, like the other bobbleheads this season, is extremely detailed. Fans can see the logos painted onto his black cleats and even see the black shoe laces.

The bobblehead designers also gets credit for including the single red arm sleeve that Taylor wears on his right arm. Fans will also notice that the cap is much more detailed than the caps from either of the Max Scherzer bobbleheads. The panels of the cap and button are both pronounced this bobblehead. The corrugated polyester texture is also visible on the cap.

The Washington Nationals had a sponsorship activation at the main team store which generated some enthusiasm for the promotion. Taylor, who did not play on Friday night but dressed for the game, signed autographs for about thirty minutes near the store’s entrance.

Many fans posted photos of their bobbleheads on social media. Our favorite is this post game video taken by a fan during the Trea Turner walk-off home run.

The prevailing buzz surrounding the bobblehead, despite its craftsmanship, was Taylor’s forgettable season where his low batting average (.218) and high strikeout number (73) in just 68 games left him out of a job.

Grade: B

TOPPS NOW: Trea Turner Caps off 2-HR Game With First Career Walk-Off Blast

 

Trea Turner's first multi-homer game was capped off with a walk-off home run that cleared the center field wall and traveled 440 feet.
Trea Turner’s first multi-homer game was capped off with a walk-off home run that cleared the center field wall and traveled 440 feet.

Extra innings were seemingly on the horizon when Trea Turner stepped up to the plate with two outs in the ninth. It was a 4-4 game and the momentum seemingly rested with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies, after all, roared back in the eighth inning to tie the game courtesy of a three-run homer from Cameron Rupp that soared over the visitors’ bullpen in left field.

Trea Turner had other plans. With a 1-2 count, Turner connected with a 91 mph fastball that was left over the plate by Frank Herrmann and absolutely crushed a home run to the right of the batter’s eye. Statcast projected Turner’s game-winning home run traveled 440 feet.

The stadium roared and the team ran out of the dugout to greet Turner at home plate. The energy in the stadium was high as they watched the 23-year-old phenom, acquired in a trade from the Padres in 2015, round the bases and get swarmed at the plate.

Turner is the hottest hitter in the Washington Nationals lineup right now. He has a slash line of .345 AVG / .365 OBP / .925 OPS. He also leads the Nationals with 21 stolen bases and is second on the team with six triples in just 52 games.

Turner also flashed some power earlier in the evening in the seventh inning when he cracked his seventh home run of the season into the left field seats. His two-run home run gave the Nationals a 4-1 lead.

His post game interview with Dan Kolko was interrupted by a Gatorade bath courtesy of Anthony Rendon. Turner reluctantly agreed to the soaking telling Rendon, “Only because you’re my favorite player.”

Turner said, during the postgame interview, that with two strikes, he was trying to put the ball in play for Jayson Werth and that he has surprised himself with the power that he has flashed since getting called up to The Show.
Nationals fans can commemorate Turner’s performance and last night’s victory with a limited edition Topps Now rookie card. The latest card will be available online only until Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.

The Moment:

The Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies were tied at four runs apiece when Trea Turner came up to face Frank Herrmann with two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the ninth. Turner rocketed one to deep straightaway center, clearing the fence for a walk-off home run. It was the second homer of the game for Turner and the first of the walk-off variety for his career.

Nationals Magazine Digest: September 2016

 

Daniel Murphy is featured on the cover of the third issue of Nationals Magazine this season.
Daniel Murphy is featured on the cover of the third issue of Nationals Magazine this season.

The third issue of this season’s Nationals Magazine is on sale at Nationals Park and features Daniel Murphy on the cover along with an accompanying story by Mike Feigen highlighting Murphy’s success at the plate over the last year.

Feigen describes the specific changes Murphy made to his mechanics last season which resulted in his breakout 2015 postseason that carried over into the 2016 regular season. He also highlights how Murphy’s performance, like his clutch game-tying home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 17, can be a “leverage point” that can tilt the scale for the Washington Nationals as they play into October.

Danny Espinosa is also featured in an article by David Driver. In “The Switch,” Driver presents the highlights of Espinosa’s season through the prism of his playing career as a college student in the Cape Cod League–the premier summer wooden bat league. The article has quotations from his coach with the Chatham Anglers and his coach from Long Beach State University which contextualize how Espinosa developed athletically and rose to finally become a starter for the Nationals.

The final feature story in the magazine is written by Charlie Slowes and highlights the work of the groundskeepers and grounds crew who maintain the field at Nationals Park. The story describes the decision making that went into deciding to delay the start of a game against the New York Mets and the subsequent decisions that went into delaying the game. Fans will come away from the story with an understanding that taking care of the field is a 365-day-a-year job. The article also features five photographs of the grounds crew in action.

This photo of Mark Melancon is just one of the "Easter eggs" Nationals fans will find in the latest issue of Nationals Magazine.
This photo of Mark Melancon is just one of the “Easter eggs” Nationals fans will find in the latest issue of Nationals Magazine.

The issue contains two “Easter eggs” for Nationals fans. The first is a public service announcement for TobaccoFreeBaseball.org on page 23. The second is on page 76 where a headshot of Mark Melancon features him in his uniform from his days with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Nationals Magazine can be purchased at the Nationals team store and most clubhouse stores in Nationals Park.