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Nats back stellar Ross with four home runs

May 31, 2016

PHILADELPHIA -- Daniel Murphy completed his scorching hot month of May with another multi-hit game, including a solo home run, and Joe Ross delivered a strong outing to help lead the Nationals to a 5-1 victory over the Phillies on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.Murphy improved his average to

PHILADELPHIA -- Daniel Murphy completed his scorching hot month of May with another multi-hit game, including a solo home run, and Joe Ross delivered a strong outing to help lead the Nationals to a 5-1 victory over the Phillies on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
Murphy improved his average to .397 on the season and tied a franchise record for most hits in a single month with 47, including seven homers. He had only homered seven times in a single month once, this past October while he helped the Mets complete their run to the World Series.
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"Murph's ready to hit June, July August and September," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "And we've seen him in October. Doesn't really matter, just as long as we can keep him healthy and happy."

The Nationals had four homers on the day -- Jayson Werth's solo homer in the first inning, Murphy's homer in the sixth, Danny Espinosa's two-run homer in the ninth inning followed by a pinch-hit inside the park home run from Stephen Drew -- to back Ross, who tossed seven innings of one-run ball. The Nationals will go for a series sweep Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia has dropped nine of its last 11 games despite starter Aaron Nola's solid outing. Nola struck out six over six innings, allowing two runs.
"That was the one bright spot," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said of Nola's outing.

Bryce Harper sat out with a right knee contusion after being hit by a Jeremy Hellickson pitch in Monday's game.
Ross is boss: Ross continues to establish himself as one of the best young starters in all of baseball after another strong outing Tuesday night. He scattered three hits in seven strong innings and surrendered just one run with five strikeouts. He lowered his ERA to 2.37 on the season, seventh best in the National League. One of the most encouraging signs for the Nationals was how strongly Ross finished the game, which had been an area he and manager Dusty Baker discussed as room for improvement.
"I guess it was a little bit all coming together," Ross said. "I've realized going into the games later it's tough. I think just trying to make an adjustment with pitch selection probably was the biggest thing."

Nola steady again: Despite being only 22 years old and in his first full Major League season, Nola has flourished in his role as the quasi-ace of a staff that never really had one. He took the loss on Tuesday, but to no fault of his own. Nola notched his ninth quality start in 11 tries. He stranded three Nationals on base, escaping the rare jam in which he found himself. The only damage off the Nats' bats against Nola came on two solo home runs.
"He competes pitch by pitch is what he does and he doesn't let anything bother him," Mackanin said. "He's like a golfer who sees the water in front of him and the sandtraps to the side and just puts that out of focus." More >

Power surge: The Nationals did all their scoring via the long ball on Tuesday night with four home runs, and none more unlikely and exciting as Drew's pinch-hit inside-the-park homer. Espinosa had just added some insurance runs for Washington before Drew hammered a ball off the center-field wall that Odubel Herrera leaped for but could not secure and sent Drew racing around the bases.
Drew's recorded the second inside-the-park home run of the season for the Nationals (Ryan Zimmerman -- May 15) and the eighth pinch-hit home run of the season for Washington, tying a team record (2005-present) for most pinch-hit homers in a season.
"Halfway to third, I could still see [third base coach Bobby Henley] waving, and I was like, 'Man, I gotta kick it into gear here'," Drew said. "Lucky for me that throw was offline. He saw something better than I did. That's a good send right there. You don't see that too often." More >

Bottoms up: It remains a mystery where the Phillies' offense will come from each night. On Tuesday, the lone run was driven in by a Cesar Hernandez triple. Hernandez was batting eighth only because Pete Mackanin was hoping "to change our luck" offensively. In the past 33 games played at NL parks, Mackanin had hit the pitcher eighth in all but one. But Hernandez, in the eight hole, was the catalyst for the bottom third of the Phils' order. Three of the Phillies' four hits came from their bottom three -- two singles from David Lough on top of Hernandez's triple.
"We're just getting out-homered every night," Mackanin said. "Four hits. We're not hitting home runs. I feel like it's a broken record -- we're not hitting."

Murphy's sixth-inning home run was a towering shot to right. Its 39-degree launch angle put it in exclusive company. Only 40 of the 1,655 home runs in baseball this season (2.4 percent) have left the bat on such an upward plane.
The Nationals are the first team in MLB with two inside-the-park home runs in the same month since the Rockies did so in 2014 (both Brandon Barnes), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Nationals/Expos franchise hit record has stood for more than 33 years before Murphy's month of May. He joins outfielder Al Oliver (August 1982) and Marquis Grissom (June 1994).
Nationals:Max Scherzer (5-4, 4.05 ERA) will take the mound for the Nationals in Wednesday's series finale at 7:05 p.m. ET. Since he joined the Nationals in 2015, he has yet to lose to the Phillies, posting a 4-0 record with a 1.88 ERA. In eight career starts against Philadelphia, he is 5-1 with a 2.38 ERA.
Phillies:Adam Morgan (1-3, 6.67 ERA) gets the ball for the Phillies in the series finale against Washington. He has lost his last three starts and his only two quality starts this season have come against the last-place Braves.
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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Evan Webeck is a reporter for based in Philadelphia.