Washington Nationals: Daniel Murphy, Adam Eaton put on hitting clinic

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DENVER, CO - APRIL 27: Trea Turner #7, Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton #2 of the Washington Nationals are congratulated by Daniel Murphy #20 after scoring on a Bryce Harper 3 RBI home run in the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on April 27, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - APRIL 27: Trea Turner #7, Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton #2 of the Washington Nationals are congratulated by Daniel Murphy #20 after scoring on a Bryce Harper 3 RBI home run in the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on April 27, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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The Washington Nationals were boosted by big showings from Daniel Murphy and Adam Eaton as they beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-1 by going a combined 6 for 8.

While Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy were injured, the Washington Nationals offense struggled to consistently score runs. They’ve been back for a few weeks now, but they’ve still been trying to find their form at the plate.

Before this series, Murphy was hitting just .194 and Eaton was hitting a respectable .292 but had been struggling as of late. Like the Nationals, neither player was able to feel comfortable at the plate on a regular basis.

That has changed in a big way during this series, and even more so on Tuesday. Murphy went 4 for 4 with two doubles as he continues to lock in at the plate. Adam Eaton went 2 for 4 and reached base three times in yet another impressive game.

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The two veterans are a combined 11 for 15 in this series. Not surprisingly, much of the rest of the Nationals offense has responded.

If the Nationals hope to contend for the National League East down the stretch, they’re going to need these two players to produce at the plate like they have in past seasons.

Tuesday’s win over the Pittsburgh Pirates is a big step forward. Once again, they need to string wins like this together to get back in the NL East race.

Hellickson bounces back for 5 shutout innings

Before going on the disabled list in early June, Jeremy Hellickson had been quite the find for the Nats. He was 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA in 10 starts and had been among the best fifth starters in the league.

Despite coming off two rough starts since his return from injury, Hellickson was called upon to give the Nationals a decent start and hopefully give the bullpen a little respite. The seasoned right-hander was magnificent through five innings, allowing just two hits and one walk.

He was able to keep hitters off balance by mixing his pitches, which often fooled the hitters and resulted in soft contact. He only threw 67 pitches, but Davey Martinez opted to pinch-hit for him in the bottom of the fifth with bases loaded. Hellickson’s performance on the mound was enough to earn him his third win of the season.

Harper and Turner Have Nights to Forget

All-Star Bryce Harper had one of the worst nights of his career, going 0 for 5 with four strikeouts and one inexplicable throwing error in the field. The outfielder looked out of sorts all night and never seemed to see the ball clearly while in the batter’s box.

Time and again Harper has looked to be on the verge of breaking out of his season-long slump, only to regress back a few days later. The former NL MVP is now batting .219 and on pace to put up career highs in strikeouts.

Almost as bad as Harper was All-Star hopeful Trea Turner, who went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He has yet to get a hit since being announced as a candidate for the All-Star Final Vote, though he did manage to draw a walk in the fifth inning.

Next: Fold, stick or twist at the deadline?

The Washington Nationals go for the series victory over the Pirates tomorrow, live on Facebook for the first time this season.

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