Daniel Murphy is back in the District with his new team. (Nick Wass/AP)

In a hectic few weeks, including a move from Washington to Chicago, getting acclimated to a new city and team and often batting first in the Cubs’ stacked lineup, Thursday morning felt familiar to Daniel Murphy.

He woke up in his own bed in D.C., where he lived for two and a half seasons while playing second base for the Nationals. He headed to Nationals Park, a daily commute once burned into his baseball routine. Then he walked into the visitors clubhouse at Nationals Park, and things started to feel odd again.

“There are definitely emotions when I get out there,” Murphy said inside the Cubs’ clubhouse ahead of Thursday night’s series opener against Washington. “I check on all the guys over there, I think of the relationships that I’ve been able to build, and my family has been able to build over the last two and a half season, now we’re coming up on three years, relationships that I cherish, that my family cherishes, that I will take well beyond my playing days. That’s what I think of most.”

Murphy’s return comes just over two weeks after the Nationals traded him to the Cubs, the same day first baseman Matt Adams was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals. Adams hit two home runs in the Cardinals’ 7-6 win at Nationals Park on Wednesday night. Now there is a chance for Murphy, known for beating up on his former teams, to remind the Nationals of what they parted with when disappointing results led to an August sell-off.

Since joining the Cubs, Murphy is hitting .316 with four home runs and seven runs batted in. Cubs Manager Joe Maddon has slotted Murphy atop the order because of the veteran’s ability to get on base. He will face right-hander Stephen Strasburg on Thursday, while righty Kyle Hendricks pitches for the first-place Cubs.

“We know that he’s a very good hitter and we know that he does prepare well,” Martinez said of Murphy on Thursday. “So yeah we’re trying to prepare, so when he steps up there [we have] the best way to get him out.”

The Nationals will be without first baseman Ryan Zimmerman on Thursday, and Martinez insisted the decision was made to give Zimmerman a rest day. The 33-year-old veteran made a hard headfirst slide into home on Wednesday night, but both he and Martinez said he is fine health-wise. Mark Reynolds will start in his place and hit sixth in the order. Spencer Kieboom also gets the nod at catcher with Matt Wieters still dealing with soreness in his groin. Rookie catcher Pedro Severino started in all three games of the Cardinals series and now Kieboom will get a chance to prove himself as the Nationals cycle young players and off the field.

That is partly because of Murphy’s departure, which gave the 26-year-old Wilmer Difo a chance as the Nationals’ everyday second baseman. But Murphy’s return Thursday, like Adams’s before it, will also show what the Nationals season was supposed to be, and what it has ultimately become.

“The simple answer is that when I was over there we didn’t win enough games,” Murphy said Thursday of what went wrong for the Nationals this season. “And that probably boils down to that we just didn’t play enough consistent, quality baseball. It’s a tough league, there are some teams in the division and the NL East that played really well, you see what Atlanta’s doing and what Philly is doing. Unfortunately, over there, we just couldn’t string together a consistent streak of quality baseball.”


CUBS (82-57)

Daniel Murphy 2B

Javier Baez 3B

Anthony Rizzo 1B

Ben Zobrist RF

Kris Bryant LF

Alberto Almora Jr. CF

Wilson Contreras C

Kyle Hendricks P

Addison Russell SS


Adam Eaton RF

Trea Turner SS

Bryce Harper CF

Anthony Rendon 3B

Juan Soto LF

Mark Reynolds 1B

Wilmer Difo 2B

Spencer Kieboom C

Stephen Strasburg P

Read more on the Nationals

Boswell: Could the Nats have made a September run? We’ll never know, and for no good reason

Mike Rizzo on Dave Martinez returning to Nationals in 2019: ‘I haven’t considered any other scenario’

Despite sell-off, Nationals will not get under the competitive balance tax threshold