WASHINGTON -- Perhaps at this point it should not be a surprise to see Daniel Murphy, sidelined for three weeks with a strained buttocks, return to the postseason as if he never missed a beat. Not after he picked up where he left off from a breakout postseason in 2015
WASHINGTON -- Perhaps at this point it should not be a surprise to see Daniel Murphy, sidelined for three weeks with a strained buttocks, return to the postseason as if he never missed a beat. Not after he picked up where he left off from a breakout postseason in 2015 to tear through the regular season this year, putting himself in contention for the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
His success in the playoffs speaks to his preparation and how well he has come to understand his swing during his ascension into one of the best hitters in baseball. Murphy went 3-for-3 with a walk, a run scored, and two RBIs to contribute to the Nationals' 5-2 victory in Sunday's Game 2 of the NL Division Series against the Dodgers, as the sold-out crowd of 43,826 at Nationals Park serenaded him with chants of "M-V-P."
:: NLDS: Dodgers vs. Nationals coverage ::
It's what impresses his teammate Max Scherzer, himself potentially on the cusp of a second Cy Young Award, who marveled at Murphy's intellect and approach on hitting.
• Shop NL East champs gear
"It's understanding what pitchers are trying to do," Scherzer said. "Understanding how his swing works and what he's trying to accomplish and anticipating pitches. To be able to do that …
"That's that Miggy and Victor [stuff]" Scherzer said, with an expletive referring to his former Tigers teammates Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, to whom Scherzer only references with the highest praise for hitting.
The Statcast™ data on Murphy's hits Sunday back it up.
None of his three singles were hit particularly hard, but the launch angle on each of the three was between 12 and 20 degrees, which shows his ability to keep his bat in the strike zone for a long time and assure the barrel of the bat gets on the ball. Balls that leave the bat with a launch angle between 12 and 20 degrees had a batting average of .686 this season.
At the start of this series, there was some uncertainty as to whether Murphy would be ready to start the NLDS on time and how effective he could be if he did play. Now Murphy has hit safely in both games, improving his career postseason average to .359.
"He's just a great player. What he did last year down the stretch, he's been able to hold onto that and keep it going," left fielder Jayson Werth said. "It's really cool to see. But obviously a big part of our team. A leader, a guy that plays second base for us. Getting hurt with about 10 days to go in the season and really not playing the last two weeks, then he comes out in the playoffs and looks like he didn't miss a beat. He's a pretty special player."
It's even more encouraging for the Nationals that Murphy has had success against the two left-handers at the top of the Dodgers' rotation, Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. Murphy will finally see a right-hander on Monday when Kenta Maeda takes the mound for Game 3 in Los Angeles at 4 p.m. ET on MLB Network.
"I don't know if they've got a right-hander over there," Murphy said. "I don't feel like, I haven't seen one yet."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.