Nats boast July's top NL player, pitcher in Murphy, Stras
By David Adler
After another month of stellar play from Daniel Murphy and Stephen Strasburg, who continue to spearhead the Nationals' run atop the National League East, the Washington duo took home the NL's Player and Pitcher of the Month awards for July on Wednesday.
For Murphy, this is his second Player of the Month honor of the season. The NL's leading hitter also won the award in May. That gives the Nationals three of the four NL Player of the Month winners so far this year, with Bryce Harper having been named the recipient in April.
In July, Murphy hit .346, maintaining his lead in the race for the NL batting title. Murphy's .356 season average leads the next-closest competitor, teammate Wilson Ramos, by 25 points. And that average doesn't even include his two hits in the All-Star Game.
Murphy also mashed six homers during the month -- including a two-out, game-tying, pinch-hit home run against the Pirates (off now-teammate Mark Melancon) in his first at-bat out of the All-Star break. The 31-year-old second baseman drove in a league-high 23 runs, and also led the NL with 11 doubles and a .744 slugging percentage.
"This was MVP-caliber and, in my mind, he is having an MVP season," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said after Murphy hit his game-tying home run.
With Murphy leading the offense, Strasburg continued to dominate on the mound, earning his second career NL Pitcher of the Month award, and his first since April 2012.
Strasburg went 4-1 in July, pacing the NL in wins, and his record now sits at an MLB-best 15-1 on the season. The Nationals have won all but two of his 20 starts. Strasburg has already equaled his career-high wins total, with two months of the season left to play.
The 28-year-old right-hander had a 2.08 ERA in five July starts, and he racked up 37 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings. Opponents hit a league-low .127 against Strasburg for the month.
"He's taking it to a new level now," Washington first baseman Clint Robinson said after Strasburg's third start of July, when he improved to 13-0 with eight innings of one-run ball against Pittsburgh. "Every time out he's got a chance to doing something special."
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.