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Baker resting Murphy as Nationals end series with Padres

SAN DIEGO -- Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker looks at Sunday's four-game series finale with the San Diego Padres with an eye toward the future.

Washington is running away with the National League East and is making plans for October. Baker is doing just that by resting second baseman Daniel Murphy for the second consecutive day.

"I just thought it would be better," Baker said. "I could see him, he wasn't moving real smoothly the last couple of days. Although he kind of waddles, anyway."

So Howie Kendrick, who has played well in the outfield, is back at second again. What Baker has learned in his second season with the Nationals is that he's more cognizant of his players' well-being.

"Part of my job is to notice personality changes, physical changes and to see the difference between one day to the next," Baker said. "Last year Murph was new to me. I didn't know what kind of signs to look for.

"Murph isn't going to come and tell me (he wants a day off). I'm going to have to go to him and kind of tell him, not ask him, because Muph wants to play. I just thought he should take some time off and he agreed with me."

Murphy is expected back when the Nationals open a three-game series with the Astros on Tuesday. So Murphy, who is 1-for-7 on the road trip, will get three days of rest.

"He is just kind of sore this time of year," Baker said. "He does a lot of squatting at second base and he hits out of a crouch last year."

Baker has the luxury of giving significant players a blow while enjoying a double-digit lead. While he would love for the Nationals to win and split the series on Sunday, what's sweeter is refreshed ball players.

"What happens when you slow down, the concentration is such that you are taking good pitches and swing at pitches out of the zone because your concentration isn't the same," Baker said.

Gio Gonzalez (11--5, 2.49) gets the nod for Washington. The southpaw, who is 2-2 with a 4.30 ERA lifetime against the Padres, is looking for his fourth straight win.

Gonzalez was stellar his last time out when throwing six innings of scoreless ball when beating the Los Angeles Angels. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning.

"He pitched his butt off," said the Angels' Cameron Maybin to MLB.com after breaking up Gonzalez's no-hitter with an infield single. "You got to tip your hat to him. It's about more than just throwing the ball. It's about pitching, and he did a great job."

The Padres will counter with Dinelson Lamet (7-4) and he's been keen of late, too. He's aiming for his fifth straight win in his first appearance against the Nationals.

Padres manager Andy Green said there's no mystery to Lamet's success.

"Do the same thing," Green said. "I don't think you're looking for any major change or any departure for him. Attack, attack aggressively, and attack with your two plus pitches. Be willing to throw anything at any point in time."