Second baseman ties record set by Beltran in '04 with Astros
By Barry M. Bloom
CHICAGO -- As Daniel Murphy rounded the bases in the third inning as another homer landed -- this one into the famous center-field bleachers of Wrigley Field -- his Mets teammates and manager Terry Collins were uproarious in the dugout, shouting and wondering aloud, "Who is this guy?"
"I mean, he's been unbelievable," Collins said after the Mets defeated the Cubs, 5-2, in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday. "I've watched a lot of baseball over the years; I don't think I've seen anybody put on this kind of a show on this kind of stage like he has so far. I mean, even the guys in the dugout, they're baseball guys, too, and they're saying the same thing."
It was Murphy's sixth home run of this postseason and fifth in successive games, both club records and more. Tuesday night's shot left Murphy's bat at 103 mph according to Statcast™ and was projected to travel 421 feet, Murphy's longest of the postseason and third longest he's hit this season.
The Mets now have a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and can wrap up their fifth NL pennant behind rookie left-hander Steven Matz on Wednesday night (air time 7:30 p.m. ET, game time 8 p.m. on TBS). And Collins only has one request for his suddenly power-laden second baseman:
"Hopefully he just keeps it up for a few more games," said Collins, who's nearing his first trip to the World Series in 11 years of managing three teams since 1994.
The funny thing about it is that Murphy's six homers gives him the Mets' record over Mike Piazza, who took the 1999-2000 postseasons to hit his five. And the homer in five consecutive games ties him with Carlos Beltran, who did it in 2004 during a short stint with the Astros.
Both of them are power hitters. Piazza, a top Hall of Fame candidate, had 427 homers, 396 when playing behind the plate, the most of any catcher. Beltran has 392. Murphy came into the postseason with 62 homers in 3,619 plate appearances over seven seasons.
Consider then how unexpected it is that Murphy has hit six homers in eight postseason games. Beltran had eight homers in 12 postseason games in 2004, and seven in his first eight postseason games that year. But he was supposed to do something like that. Overall, Beltran has 16 postseason homers when adding stints with the Mets and the Cardinals -- three of them against the Cardinals for the Mets in losing the 2006 NLCS.
Murphy had a .424 lifetime slugging percentage and a .755 OPS coming into the postseason. What has changed?
"I don't know. I wish I could explain it," Murphy said. "If I knew, I would have started doing it like six years ago. I can only thank [hitting coaches] Kevin Long and Pat Roessler for all the work they've put in, not only with myself, but with all the hitters. I wish I could explain it, but I can't."
If there is a reason for it, Murphy explained, just look at his spot in the lineup, nestled in the third slot between David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes.
"I'm in the best spot in the lineup you could possibly be in, in between those two guys right now," Murphy said. "David's on in front of me, Ces is really dangerous behind me, so it's a really nice spot to be in."
Adding even more to the growing Murphy myth and legend is the fact that he's hit those homers this postseason against some of the top pitchers in the game: two off Clayton Kershaw and one off Zack Greinke in the Mets' five-game victory over the Dodgers in their NL Division Series, and one each against Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and now Kyle Hendricks in the first three games against the Cubs.
"The way he's going, the baseball probably looks more like a softball," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
Murphy will be a free agent at the end of the season, and when asked how much money he thinks he might have made for himself with this ongoing postseason performance, he said that subject was for another time and place. His base, though, is the $8 million he made from the Mets this season.
No matter, his teammates, of course, have been digging it.
"It's ridiculous," Wright said. "We were talking in the dugout and being here in Chicago, he should have given the shoulder shrug to [Michael] Jordan after that last one. Being a hitter, I understand how difficult it is to do what he's doing, to continue this hot streak for 10 days or whatever it's been. I mean, it's impressive doing it off these pitchers. It's fun to watch."