WASHINGTON — You could look at Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy as the two that got away from the Mets. Except that it was the Mets who let both of them go when neither wanted to leave.
While the Mets are home after their wild-card loss to the Giants, the Dodgers’ Turner and the Nationals’ Murphy are battling it out in the NLDS.
The Dodgers hold a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series after Friday’s 4-3 victory at Nationals Park. Game 2 was rained out Saturday and will be played at 1:08 p.m. on Sunday.
Turner and Murphy were right in the middle of the Game 1 result. Turner hit a two-run homer off Max Scherzer to give Los Angeles a 4-0 lead. Murphy, making his first start since Sept. 17 after recovering from a strained buttocks muscle, was thrown out trying to steal second in the seventh inning with the Nationals trailing by a run.
Mets fans who remember Murphy’s misadventures on the basepaths could only shake their heads, as did Nationals manager Dusty Baker. Same old Murph.
“I was surprised,” Baker said. “But like I said, we got the stopwatch on those guys, and he’s being aggressive and he thought he had a chance to steal the base. You know, we stole second and third [earlier in the game], everybody says great play. And then when you get thrown out, they say it’s not. If you’re going to run, you’re going to get caught stealing sometimes. Like I said in the past, that’s why it’s called stealing. And you’re going to get caught sometimes.”
Said Murphy: “There were two choices, either be safe or don’t run. It was a bad play.”
One stolen-base attempt gone awry isn’t going to stop Nationals fans from loving Murphy, who signed a three-year, $37.5-million free-agent contract with Washington after the Mets showed little inclination to keep him in Queens despite his record-setting 2015 postseason.
Seven home runs in the first nine postseason games in 2015 wasn’t enough for the Mets to try to retain Murphy, who made no secret of his desire to stay in New York. Ask Murphy about the Mets now and all you’ll get is a smirk and a brushoff, perhaps even a comment about the weather.
Murphy’s revenge is that he had an MVP-caliber year (.347, 25 homers, 104 RBIs) and that the Nationals are still playing
Turner, the Dodgers’ No. 3 hitter and a bona fide slugger now, is hardly recognizable to Mets fans, who knew him as a jolly, red-haired utilityman. The Mets decided to non-tender Turner after the 2013 season for reasons that have never been fully understood.
“I don’t know what happened, but obviously my career has kind of taken a turn for the better once I put the Dodger uniform on,” Turner said. “I couldn’t be happier to be here and share the same uniform as the rest of the guys and be on a team that from day one is all about winning. And that’s what we’ve done the last three years. We’ve fell a little short in the postseason, but you know, we’re prepared to go deep into the postseason this year.”
Turner is still jolly and red-haired, but he no longer is a bench player. Manager Dave Roberts called him, along with Chase Utley, “the glue to the club.” Turner, a free agent after the season, hit .275 with 27 homers and 90 RBIs.
“Justin, you know what, I always liked him from the other side,” Roberts said. “Even when he was a bench player, utility player for the Mets, I always liked his energy and the way he interacted with his teammates and the at-bat he gave you coming off the bench or days he would start. So I always liked him.”
In last season’s NLDS against the Mets, Turner hit .526 with six doubles and four RBIs. But he had to go home as the Mets won in five.
Now he and Murphy are still playing. One will advance to the NLCS in the search for more postseason glory.