It didn’t take long for Daniel Murphy to go from fan favorite to public enemy No. 1 at Citi Field.
He left as a free agent after last season as the Mets clearly didn’t want him back, and in Murphy’s first trip back to Flushing in mid-May, the Washington second baseman received a warm welcome. He was treated to a standing ovation and a video montage of his hitting prowess, which had helped propel the Mets to the 2015 National League pennant, their first since 2000. Murphy hit .390 with seven homers, 11 RBIs and 13 runs in the postseason.
But Mets fans have turned on Murphy in true New York fashion. In his second trip back to the city where he spent the first seven years of his career, the appreciative “thank you’s” have been replaced with boos.
“I don’t know. I guess it means you’re doing something to help your ballclub win a game that day against that team,” he said about hearing boos at Citi Field, “so that’s the way I look at it.”
Murphy went 3-for-4 with a walk and four RBIs, highlighted by a two-run home run in the seventh inning, in Washington’s 6-1 victory over the Mets on Saturday night at Citi Field.
He has hit .438 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in his first 12 games against them this season. He has eight multi-hit games against the Mets and is 6-for-13 with eight RBIs in this series. He not only is leading the majors with a .349 batting average but has yet to go hitless against his former squad.
Murphy downplays his production against the Mets. When asked about his offensive outbursts against his former team, he directs all answers toward the team’s production. But Nats manager Dusty Baker knows better.
“It definitely means a lot to him,’’ he said. “He has a lot of friends over there — as former teammates, they’re probably still friends — but like I said, anybody who’s been traded or played out their options or their team didn’t sign him or whatever it was definitely means more when you’re playing your old team.”
Last season, Murphy hit his sixth home run on July 25. He has 16 this season. He entered the game leading the National League in batting average, hits (113) and total bases (190). He ranked fourth in doubles (24), third in slugging percentage (.579) and seventh in RBIs (60).
Murphy delivered an RBI single on Logan Verrett’s 0-and-2 slider in the third to give Washington a 3-1 lead and added a two-out RBI double in the fifth to make it 4-1.
He has been seen at the top railing after nearly every key hit by the Nationals in this series — at least the ones he hasn’t produced himself. When he connects, he often has held the follow-through of his swing.
After today, the Mets won’t see Murphy and the Nationals again until September. That’s probably fine with them.