Murphy flies out in bid for NL batting title
Percentage points behind LeMahieu, second baseman comes up short in pinch-hit at-bat
WASHINGTON -- Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy flied out in his lone at-bat in Sunday's 10-7 win over the Marlins, finishing the year with a .347 batting average and ending his hopes of winning the National League batting title.
Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu entered the day leading the NL with a .348 average. Murphy was percentage points behind, needing a hit to surpass LeMahieu, who did not play in the Rockies' game against the Brewers.
Murphy, who had been out since Sept. 20 with a strained buttocks, got his chance in the fifth inning, when he pinch-hit for catcher Jose Lobaton. After working a 2-2 count, Murphy lined a pitch from Austin Brice to right field, but Marlins outfielder Destin Hood was perfectly positioned for the catch.
After the game, Murphy said that although he was aware of his proximity to the batting title, he was not upset to have missed out on it.
"We won the NL East, and we're hosting a Division Series as well," Murphy said. "So no, the batting title is not something I gave a lot of thought to."
If Murphy had gotten a hit, his batting average would have risen to .3483, which would have put him ahead of LeMahieu, who finished at .3478. Assuming word got back to Colorado, LeMahieu would then have had a chance to seize back the batting title with a pinch-hit at-bat of his own.
"We were trying to give him an at-bat," manager Dusty Baker said of Murphy. "If he got a hit, then that was going to force LeMahieu to win this thing without sitting down."
Murphy set career highs in most offensive categories this season while leading the NL in doubles (47) and slugging percentage (.596).
The Nationals have four days off before the NLDS against the Dodgers begins on Friday, giving Murphy some time to rest his buttocks. Murphy said Sunday he feels comfortable in the batter's box, but is unsure of his ability to run at full strength.
Neither Baker nor Murphy would promise that the second baseman would be in the lineup Friday against Clayton Kershaw.
"It's tough to guess what's going to happen on Friday on Sunday," Murphy said. "But hopefully."