Posted on September 22, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy has been out of the starting lineup for four straight days with a leg injury, and there appears to be growing concern for him, as the team says he is not responding to treatment. He has pinch hit twice in those four games, but has not returned to the starting lineup. The continued absence of a player who has carried the Nationals offensively for long stretches of the season is undoubtedly worrying for Washington heading into the final week and a half of the regular season.
Murphy suffered the injury sliding into second base on Saturday, although after a visit from the trainer he was able to stay in the game. However, the team has not disclosed the exact nature of the injury or what kind of treatment Murphy is receiving to ensure the injury heals as quickly as possible.
“I’m sure the world would like to know [what’s wrong with Murphy],” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said on Wednesday. “Our trainers are still working on him. They are trying to get to the bottom of it. When you are hurt this late in the season, you don’t have a bunch of time to come back. We have some hands working on him.”
The absence of Murphy is even more noticeable due to the September struggles of right fielder Bryce Harper. For the second time this season, there are reports that Harper is dealing with a shoulder injury that’s hindering his performance, although the team has denied those reports. Whether those reports are true or not, Harper is struggling and unable to carry the Washington offense without Murphy in the lineup.
“Daniel has been carrying us most of the season, so now it’s time for some of the other guys to step up during Daniel’s absence and not depend on Daniel being here,” Baker said. The Nationals are 1-3 in the four games Murphy has missed this week and 9-9 on the season in games he doesn’t start.
Murphy is by far having the best season of his career in his first year with the Nationals. He’s hitting a team-high .347 and leads the team in both home runs (25) and doubles (47). The Nationals have used Stephen Drew and Wilmer Difo to fill in at second base during Murphy’s absence, although both pale in comparison to Murphy, who is a legitimate MVP candidate.
The Nationals are hoping that after an off day on Thursday that Murphy will be able to return to the lineup on Friday when the team begins a series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, if Murphy isn’t responding to treatment, there’s no guarantee that will happen. The longer Murphy remains out of the starting lineup, the more the Nationals become concerned.
“You’re always a little concerned about a player of Daniel’s ability,” Baker said. “Concern really doesn’t help the situation. If concern or worry would help, I’d be worrying all day and night and they’d be better, but it doesn’t help. What you have to do, everybody else has to do a little more.”
The Nationals have a magic number of just two to clinch the NL East, which they figure to do this weekend with or without Murphy. But with Murphy already missing close to a week, time is running out in the regular season to get him back on the field and playing at a high level before the start of the playoffs, when the Nationals will undoubtedly need him at his best.