The taste of shaving cream lingered in Daniel Murphy's mouth long after his late-game heroics.
But even as he complained to reporters about its revolting aftertaste, the Mets second baseman savored the moment.
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With both his glove and his bat, Murphy helped continue the team's unbeaten streak Monday night at Citi Field, delivering a walk-off RBI single in the ninth to give the Mets a 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals, their fourth straight victory to open the season.
Murphy was mobbed by his teammates and pied in the face by Justin Turner during his postgame interview on the field. That was because of the hit, but without Murphy's nifty glovework in the top of the ninth, the Mets might not have won.
Jon Rauch walked Steve Lombardozzi to start the ninth, but he was forced out at second after Ruben Tejada snow-coned a throw from Ike Davis on a bunt by Ian Desmond. Rauch struck out Danny Espinosa for the second out before Ryan Zimmerman hit a ground ball up the middle within Murphy's range.
"I thought I got a pretty good bead on it," said the second baseman, who went to his right, snagged the ball and threw it to Tejada for a forceout that ended the inning. "I was shading him up the middle all night . . . and Ruben made a great play just hanging with that one."
Murphy, whose defense often was ridiculed in the past, had trouble deciding which contribution he was proud of most. "We won, so I guess I'll go with the hit," he said with a smile.
Murphy's single, the second walk-off hit of his career and first since Aug. 16, 2009, capped an unusually tense half-inning for the Mets, who battled back from a 3-0 hole. They made it 3-1 in the third on starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey's double and David Wright's RBI single, then tied it in the fourth on Kirk Nieuwenhuis' two-run homer, the first of his major-league career.
Pinch hitter Mike Baxter led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk against Henry Rodriguez. Tejada put down a two-strike bunt that was fielded by Rodriguez, who threw the ball down the rightfield line.
Baxter, eyeing the ball as it rolled away from the Washington infielders, sprinted to third and headed toward home. But third-base coach Tim Teufel began waving his arms wildly and shouted for Baxter to get back to third. About one-third of the way home, Baxter slipped and fell before scrambling back to third and beating the tag.
"When you have the action in front of you like that, and how quickly it happens, you process it all and then you say, 'We got the [No.] 2, 3 and 4 [hitters] coming up; we don't want to make the first out at home," said Teufel, who admitted he probably gave Nationals second baseman Espinosa too much credit on the play when he held up Baxter. Espinosa had chased down the errant throw.
Said Baxter: "Thankfully, I saw the stop sign and pulled up . . . Once I saw the ball get away, I figured we might have a chance to score. And then he put the brakes on me and I did my best to stop.
" . . . I just saw the replay," he said with a laugh. "It's not too nice."
From the dugout, Terry Collins stared in disbelief.
"I'm not really sure I can tell you what I said in the dugout," he said after the game. "I thought Tuff was in a good position, though . . . Plus with the middle of the lineup coming up, I thought Tim did a great job on that read."
As the play unfolded, Murphy whispered a prayer in the batter's box. Then he went to work.
"I'm trying to breathe," he said of that moment. "I sent up a prayer right there, not to necessarily do good, but to just take away the anxiety. I felt blessed that I was kind of able to slow the heart rate down."