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03/19/11 3:58 PM ET

Roster hopefuls shine, Perez struggles vs. Nats

Murphy, Evans, Duda plate runs; lefty allows pair of homers

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The few true position battles at Mets camp are beginning to sizzle.

Roster hopefuls Daniel Murphy, Nick Evans and Lucas Duda drove in runs in the first inning Saturday, leading a Mets split-squad to a 7-4 victory over the Nationals at Digital Domain Park.

Facing Nats starter Jason Marquis in the first inning, Murphy sparked the scoring with an RBI single up the middle. After Jason Bay walked and Scott Hairston singled to load the bases with one out, Duda forced in a run with another walk and Evans plated two more with a double to center. Three innings later, Hairston tripled in three additional runs to give the Mets a seven-run edge.

Marquis, who entered Saturday's play having allowed just one run all spring, served up six of them in 3 2/3 innings to absorb his first Grapefruit League loss. His counterpart, Chris Capuano, cruised through 5 2/3 innings, striking out five and blanking the Nationals on three hits.

Lowering his spring ERA to 0.84 in 10 2/3 innings, Brian Broderick pitched a perfect fifth for the Nats.

Murphy, who entered Saturday's play batting .346 over his previous eight games, is battling Brad Emaus, Luis Hernandez and Justin Turner for the starting second-base job. Evans and Duda are both vying for playing time in the outfield in the event that Carlos Beltran begins the season on the disabled list.

As well as Capuano pitched, Oliver Perez struggled mightily in the seventh inning, allowing back-to-back homers to Jeff Frazier and Brian Bixler, while nearly giving up a third shot to Derek Norris.

Up next for the Mets: All four second-base candidates will bus to Jupiter, Fla. on Sunday as New York attempts to pare down an infield battle that still includes Emaus, Murphy, Hernandez and Turner. Some urgency has descended upon the competition, now that less than two weeks remain until Opening Day and none of the candidates have truly distinguished themselves. Right-hander Chris Young will start the 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Marlins.

Up next for the Nationals: Washington returns to Space Coast Stadium on Sunday to face Detroit for the second time in less than a week. The last time these two teams met was on Monday, with the Tigers winning the game, 4-2. Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, who is trying to be the fifth starter in the rotation, will be making his third start of the spring. In his last outing, Gorzelanny pitched four innings and allowed a run on two hits against the Mets.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.