MIAMI — Daniel Murphy is out of the starting lineup again Wednesday, the fourth straight day he hasn’t started. Murphy pinch hit Monday and Tuesday, and Nationals Manager Dusty Baker said he hoped Murphy could return Wednesday. He has not, because the left leg injury neither he, nor his team, will identify is not improving yet.
“He hasn’t been responding to treatment,” Baker said. “With a day off tomorrow, we’ll work on it. We’ll work on it and see … that’s why we tried to hit Murphy in a two-out situation instead of one out. If he had to run, we could have lost him for awhile.”
Saturday, after Murphy felt the trouble initially, Baker identified the problem as a pain in “his buttocks.” As Murphy missed Sunday’s game, then Monday’s, Baker stopped identifying the injury. Asked point blank to do so Tuesday, he refused, suggesting that the training staff was not exactly sure what was wrong.
“I’m sure the world would like to know, but our trainers are still working on it,” Baker said. “They’re trying to get to the bottom of it and resolve it so hopefully he comes back, because when you’re hurt this late in the season, you don’t have a whole bunch of time to come back. You’re already tired. You’re already fatigued.”
Murphy would not specify the injury when asked about it Monday. He played it off as the kind of soreness all players deal with, and indicated no timetable — the resident master of deflection, dodging attention as usual. As of Wednesday, the Nationals have 11 games remaining on their schedule, then four days between their regular season finale and a potential National League Division Series opener. In other words Murphy, who is tied for the team’s single-season record in hits and is chasing a batting title, has two weeks to heal.
“You’re always a little concerned about a player of Daniel’s ability,” Baker said, “but 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 because Daniel has been carrying us most of the season. Now it’s time for some of the other guys to step up in Daniel’s absence.”
Murphy dealt with left hamstring trouble earlier this year, when he tweaked something in the All-Star Game and missed the first two games after that.
“This is different. You know how things are. The neck bone is connected to this bone, and the thigh bone is connected to this bone,” said Baker, giving a rather loose interpretation of anatomy that could explain some of the confusion surrounding Bryce Harper’s recent neck/shoulder trouble.
Not really, of course. Baker was just pointing out the kinetic chain — the one that led Stephen Strasburg’s ankle injury last year to turn into upper back trouble, the one that makes compensating for injuries often cause other ones.
“That’s what happens,” Baker said. “When one something is hurting, usually it kind of leads to something else.”
Murphy is hitting .347 with 184 hits, tied with Denard Span for most in a season. He is also tied with Ryan Zimmerman for the most doubles in a season in team history. Milestones seemed likely to be the story of Murphy’s final two weeks. Now, his health will be one of the bigger stories of the team’s final fortnight before the postseason.