WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Dusty Baker called Daniel Murphy, who signed a three-year, $37.5 million contract, the acquisition of the offseason. Entering Thursday's action, he led the Major Leagues with 24 multi-hit games in 46 games this season. He also paced MLB in batting average (.394) and hits (69) while ranking second in OPS (1.043).
"Murphy's been more than I think anybody dreamed that he would be," Baker said.
Baker gave Murphy a day off against the Cardinals Thursday night because he wanted to find a way to rest his second baseman's legs after spending so much time on the basepaths.
And yet, Murphy was on the field before batting practice doing extra work at second base, along with Stephen Drew and Nationals bench coach Chris Speier, after making a critical error the day prior. With a runner on first in the seventh inning of Wednesday's 2-0 loss to the Mets, Murphy made an error on a grounder by Eric Campbell. The ball went right under Murphy's glove to give the Mets runners on first and third before Rene Rivera singled home an unearned run to extend the Mets' lead.
"I misplayed another ground ball, which just needs to stop happening," Murphy said after the game. "He throws a double-play ball that should get him out of the inning. Makes it 2-0, and it just changes our approach from an offensive perspective."
The Nationals have been strong defensively as a team this season. They had committed just 18 errors, tied with the Mets for the fewest in baseball. Murphy has committed five of them and has been worth minus-5 Defensive Runs Saved, according to Fangraphs. But the Nationals are willing to live with the defensive lapses if he continues his strong season at the plate.
"Murph works hard at it," Baker said. "He works very hard, and he takes it hard when he doesn't make the plays."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.