NEW YORK -- Few themes around baseball have been as consistent the past two seasons as Daniel Murphy's superhero act and the Mets' injury woes. So it came as little surprise that on a day in which the Mets absorbed troubling news on four of their players, Murphy took no mercy with another standout performance against his former team.
Murphy collected hits in each of his first three at-bats on Thursday, including a two-run triple, to pace the Nationals' 8-3 thumping of the Mets at Citi Field. In 26 career games against his old team, Murphy has 28 RBIs.
"I hope he's fueled the rest of his career," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said when asked if the boos from Mets fans motivated Murphy.
• Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for #ASGWorthy players
Yet on this night the Mets spared most of their worry for center fielder Juan Lagares, who suffered a fracture in his thumb mere hours after the Mets received negative injury updates on Matt Harvey, Neil Walker and Noah Syndergaard. The Mets have struggled to keep a dependable roster together all season, making Robert Gsellman's role in their rotation all the more critical.
• Lagares fractures IP joint in left thumb
Gsellman responded with one of his worst starts as a big leaguer, allowing Bryce Harper's 116.3-mph solo homer -- Harper's hardest-hit ball that Statcast™ has tracked -- as part of a five-inning, seven-run performance. Michael Taylor also hit a two-run shot off Gsellman.
"They were just hitting the ball where the defense wasn't," Gsellman said. "They had some hard-hit balls, but I can't take it back."
Far more successful was Nationals starter Giovany Gonzalez, who continued his mastery of the Mets at Citi Field with seven innings of two-run ball. He has now allowed two runs or fewer in nine of his last 10 starts at Citi Field dating back to 2014.
"I have to give credit to Murphy," Gonzalez said. "Murphy did a great job of paying attention, and kind of slowing the game down for me every time I looked back. From there, the offense was great. Obviously, you have to give credit to every single one of those guys in the lineup. They did a hell of a job."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Out in the blink of an eye: Since Statcast™ began keeping track in 2015, Harper had never hit a baseball as hard as his 116.3-mph homer off Gsellman in the first inning. The ball cleared the fence in an estimated 3.8 seconds, just missing a fan in the right-field seats, and caromed back onto the field to give the Nationals a lead they would never relinquish. More >
Murphy's law: Since joining the Nationals last season, Murphy has tortured the Mets to the tune of a .394 batting average with seven doubles, one triple and eight home runs in 26 games. His two-run triple in the fifth inning kicked just under diving first baseman Lucas Duda's glove, keying a five-run rally against Gsellman.
"It's nice to get off on the right foot," Murphy said. "Gio and Bryce going in that direction tonight, and hopefully we can come out and win the second game of the series tomorrow."
"We can't sit there with our bottom lip out and go mope about it. We've got to go play. We've got to pick up the energy level and realize we've got a lot of games left." -- manager Terry Collins, on the Mets' injury woes
• Thor's timetable delayed; August return iffy
• Harvey out several weeks with shoulder injury
"Let Murph be Murph. That's what he does best. And it's always fun to watch." -- Gonzalez, on Murphy's success at the plate
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Taylor's home run was the Nationals' second of the night and the team's 100th of the season. Coming in their 66th game, it's the fastest the Nats have reached the 100-homer mark.
AGGRESSIVE DEFENSE AT A COST
Before the Nationals began piling on late, Lagares kept the Mets close with a 94.7-mph throw from center field to nail Harper at the plate in the third inning. The Nationals challenged the play, but umpires confirmed the out with a replay review.
Lagares' aggressive defense continued in the fifth inning, when he made an unsuccessful diving attempt on Anthony Rendon's RBI single. Half an inning later, Lagares left the game with a fractured IP joint in his left thumb.
Nationals: Staff ace Max Scherzer (7-4, 2.36 ERA) will take the hill for Washington in the second game of the four-game set with the Mets at Citi Field. The right-hander has a 1.45 ERA at Citi Field since joining the Nationals, which he will look to lower Friday. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Mets: The Mets will seek some stability behind left-hander Steven Matz (1-0, 1.29 ERA), who gave them seven strong innings in his season debut last time out. Matz missed the season's first two months due to an elbow injury.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.