WASHINGTON (AP) — Ever since he left them, Daniel Murphy has been making life miserable for the Mets.
Murphy homered twice, tormenting his former team yet again, and the Washington Nationals completed a three-game sweep of New York with 4-2 victory Wednesday night.
Max Scherzer (9-5) cruised against New York’s sputtering offense, allowing two hits with 10 strikeouts over 7 1/3 shutout innings. He retired 18 in a row before Brandon Nimmo’s single in the eighth and finished with at least 10 strikeouts for the fourth straight outing.
The sweep dropped New York six games behind first-place Washington in the NL East.
Murphy homered off Logan Verrett (3-5) in the second for a 1-0 lead and golfed a two-run drive in the eighth against reliever Sean Gilmartin.
Rather than acknowledge any extra motivation against the Mets, Murphy simply described them as “division opponents.”
“It’s just obvious he wants to beat them up,” Scherzer said.
Murphy is batting .428 (15 for 35) with four home runs and 11 RBIs against New York. He signed a $37.5 million, three-year contract with Washington last offseason after spending his first seven seasons with the Mets and powering them into the World Series last year with a record-setting postseason.
“He is very familiar with the Mets,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “He has no ill feelings against the Mets, but he certainly wants to beat them.”
The second baseman matched his career high with 14 homers and helped Washington win its fourth in a row.
“I don’t know,” Murphy said about his power surge. “They just keep going over the fence.”
The Mets went 23 innings without scoring before James Loney’s two-run homer in the ninth off Shawn Kelley.
“We’re just not even giving ourselves chances,” manager Terry Collins said.
Kelley got four outs for his fourth save. He threw a called third strike past Nimmo with a runner on second to end it.
New York lost 5-0 in Tuesday’s rain-interrupted matchup after dropping the series opener 11-4.
“I know it’s only June, but anytime you can sweep your divisional opponents, that’s huge,” Scherzer said.
Scherzer walked Kelly Johnson in the second, the same inning in which Asdrubal Cabrera registered New York’s first hit. The Mets didn’t reach base again until Nimmo’s hit on the final pitch from Scherzer, who left to a standing ovation.
Pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson singled off reliever Oliver Perez, giving New York two baserunners. Kelley, Washington’s fourth pitcher of the inning, struck out Alejandro De Aza with the potential tying runs in scoring position to end the eighth.
Making a spot start because Steven Matz was pushed back a day, Verrett lost his fifth straight decision. He allowed two runs and four hits, including Murphy’s long drive that landed in the second deck, with four walks over five innings.
Jayson Werth’s sacrifice fly scored Danny Espinosa for a 2-0 lead in the third.
Yoenis Cespedes struck out three times against Scherzer, who lost 2-0 at the Mets on May 17 despite compiling 10 strikeouts.
“Obviously, you wanted to come in here and have different results,” Granderson said. “You’ve still got a lot games to play plus a lot of games against this team and everybody else in our division.”
Scherzer struck out at least 10 for the seventh time this year and the 43rd time in his career. He went 4-1 with a 1.96 ERA in six June starts.
THE GRANDY MAN CAN
Granderson was a late scratch from the starting lineup one day after being removed from Tuesday’s game with right calf tightness.
Mets: RHP Noah Syndergaard, who struggled in Monday’s opener, confirmed he has a bone spur in his elbow. He called it “pretty insignificant.”
Nationals: RHP Jonathan Papelbon (right intercostal strain) threw around 30 pitches during a simulated game at Nationals Park. The closer will continue his rehab at Double-A Harrisburg, where he’s expected to pitch in back-to-back games starting Friday.
Mets: Matz (7-3, 3.29 ERA) faces Chicago Cubs RHP John Lackey (7-4, 3.29) on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series at Citi Field, a rematch of last year’s NL Championship Series that the Mets won in a four-game sweep.
Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (3-7, 4.73 ERA) tries to snap a six-game losing streak. LHP Brandon Finnegan (3-6, 3.83) opens the four-game series for visiting Cincinnati.
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