ATLANTA -- Entering the 2016 season, Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy was best known for his bat. In Friday night's 7-2 victory over the Braves, Murphy showed how much pride he takes in his defense.
Murphy made two outstanding defensive plays, each saving a run. In the fourth inning, he made a nice diving play to throw out Blake Lalli after Dansby Swanson doubled, ending the inning. Two innings later, Murphy made a lunging, backhanded snag of Swanson's grounder and threw him out at first to end the inning with a runner on second.
"It's always nice to make a solid defensive play, especially to keep the runs off the opposing scoreboard," Murphy said.
According to Nationals manager Dusty Baker, Murphy has worked hard since Spring Training to improve his defense.
"He works at it," Baker said. "They talk about what a guy doesn't do, but he works hard at it. Everybody talks about Hank Aaron's home runs, but nobody talks about his defense. I've seen [Murphy] play some outstanding defense."
Murphy said being around teammates like Danny Espinosa and Stephen Drew and bench coach Chris Speier inspired him to make an improvement with the glove.
"They really work hard with me. Danny Espinosa has helped me a lot, too," Murphy said. "The biggest thing is, make the plays you are supposed to make, turn the double plays you are supposed to turn. Just try to make the routine plays. Working hard is easy on this team. Just fall in line. Everybody does it."
Murphy was his usual self with the bat. He went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, his biggest hit coming against rookie John Gant in the second inning, when he drove in Jayson Werth with a double.
Murphy continues to lead the Major Leagues with a .349 batting average, with 25 home runs and 104 RBIs.
Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.