Game 4. The Mets lead The Kansas City Royals by a thread,3-2. Top of the 8th inning. 1st and second, one out. Eric Hosmer turns over an inside pitch and sends a weak grounder towards second baseman Daniel Murphy. He charges, and the ball slips under his glove. Ben Zobrist scores from second. Lorenzo Cain to third. Only one out. Game wasn’t over but it felt that way in Citi Field. Blue and orange clad Mets fans looked on in disgust. Happy Halloween, Mr. Murphy. What goes up must come down, Murph.
May I call you Murph? Is that okay? Can we get on a platonic Robocop friendship going on here? After all, we are both Daniel’s and right now the internet is turning you into Bill Buckner’s younger brother. The other first baseman who ironically enough was playing the Mets in the 1986 World Series and let an easy grounder slip under his glove. History has a way of kicking someone right where they least expect it.
Murphy has enjoyed a rather historic 2015 postseason. This isn’t an average player coming to superhero life in October. Murphy is a career .291 hitter with a .424 slug who just put together a fine regular season. In only 130 games, Murphy drove in 73 runs and hit 14 home runs to go with a .449 slug and 113+(OPS sliced up into the particular park Murphy plays in). This isn’t a southpaw finding his way. Murphy has become otherworldly in the postseason. The Dodgers had no answers for him. The Cubs couldn’t figure him out, pitching him inside and outside or all around the plate. He cranked home runs in six consecutive games and they all had a signature impact. He was Roy Hobbs for 2 weeks but as sports teaches the lot of us, the good will be followed by some bad if you play long enough. Murphy’s law? Almost.
In a vacuum, Murphy’s overall postseason is still strong. His 7 home runs and 11 RBI to go with a .764 slug still shine bright, and he made a snazzy play on a double play grounder to end the 8th inning and hold the Royals to a 5-3 lead. He stopped the bleeding but that came after he popped a few stitches.
Murphy has played in over 920 games in his Major League career, which started back on August 2nd, 2008. There’s a good chance he will remember this one the most unfortunately. Athletes remember the duds over the greats. The goats over the heroes. That is wired into their DNA as young players. The good burns only half as bright as the bad, especially in the playoffs. Before Game 5 opens tomorrow in New York with the Mets backs up against the wall, fans will rip him in coffee shops and bars. “Looks like the Murphy magic ran out!” “Too bad his bat was left in Chicago!” All of it will be said and some of it will be written by NYC scribes wanting clicks while the Yankees are down.
Murphy has nowhere to hide here. He hasn’t had a good series. He is 3-17. Five strikeouts and two walks. Here’s the thing. He has zero extra base hits. All singles. No home runs. No doubles or triples. It doesn’t matter anymore what he did on October 21st(4 hits, HR). It doesn’t matter that in Games 2-4 against the Cubs he had a combined eight hits and three home runs. It’s in the past. Gone. Floating like a bird down the subway.
It wasn’t all Murphy’s fault. The Mets bats have fallen silent far too often. Jeurys Familia has come into two games with a lead and watched it all collapse, even though the second time wasn’t entirely his fault. Jacob deGrom was human. Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard didn’t have great games. Yoenis Cespedes is kicking balls all over the outfield. Things have gone bad. However, the white knight in Murphy looms large right now.
All that matters is today. What does Murphy do to redeem himself? Comebacks in sports are a great thing to watch. Watching an athlete rise from the ground and get it all back. I guarantee Murphy didn’t sleep last night. Clocks fell back but his mind sprung forward. All he can think about is Game 5. The bright lights. The win or go home mentality that won’t leave his or the rest of the team’s mind.
As Sean Connery’s wise old cop asked Kevin Costner’s Elliott Ness in The Untouchables, “what are you prepared to do” Daniel Murphy?