Dave Martinez picked the right moment for Daniel Murphy.
Martinez, the first-year manager of the Washington Nationals, is hoping for more big plays for his team in the final part of the season.
Murphy drove in two runs against his former team with a pinch-hit single in Washington’s five-run seventh inning, helping the Nationals beat the New York Mets 6-1 on Sunday.
Trea Turner also had a two-run single as Washington salvaged a split of its four-game set against New York. A preseason favorite to win the National League East and contend for a World Series championship, the Nationals hit the All-Star break with a 48-48 record, good for third in the division.
“For me it’s not disappointing,” Martinez said. “People can say, yeah look at our record, ‘The Nationals should be this, that,’ but I’m proud of the boys in this team.”
“Like I said,” he continued, “we went through some adversity, and we utilized 40-something guys for a few months.” To get that many players in and out, “and trying to focus just on playing every day, it’s tough.”
Jeremy Hellickson (4-1) pitched six crisp innings in his second straight win. Hellickson, a veteran right-hander, allowed one run and two hits, struck out six and walked two. “We need all the wins we can get right now,” Hellickson said.
The Mets’ Jose Reyes drove in Michael Conforto with a fielder’s choice in the second, tying it at 1, but Washington grabbed control in the seventh.
The Nationals opened the inning with walks by Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon against Anthony Swarzak (0-2). Tim Peterson then came in and surrendered singles to Matt Adams and Murphy, who came off the bench to hit for Michael A. Taylor.
Murphy and All-Star outfielder Bryce Harper were held out of the starting lineup for rest. Murphy missed the first two months of the season while recovering from knee surgery.
“Came in today, saw the lineup and went to work on my swing and fortunate to be able to come up in a big spot and get a base hit,” Murphy said.
The Mets’ Jerry Blevins replaced Peterson with two out and runners on second and third. But he hit Wilmer Difo and Adam Eaton before Turner’s single gave Washington a 6-1 lead.
New York wasted a solid start by Corey Oswalt, who allowed two hits in five innings. The Mets got off to a fast start this year, but hit the break last in the division with a 39-55 record, percentage points behind fourth-place Miami.
“One game we’ll score some runs and then we’ll kind of not get it done with our bullpen, and other games we’ll kind of get it done on the pitching side and not score runs,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “So we haven’t synced up those three components of our game yet. If we don’t, we’re going to continue not to win. Those things all have to go well for us to win games.”
Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is scheduled to play five simulated innings in left field on Monday at the team’s complex in Florida. Manager Mickey Callaway said Cespedes, 32, who has been sidelined by a right hip flexor and strained quadriceps, could return as the designated hitter next weekend against the Yankees if he is able to play on consecutive days.
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