Cubs

Daniel Murphy extends his 'time,' homers in fifth straight playoff game

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Daniel Murphy extends his 'time,' homers in fifth straight playoff game

Hey Cubs, you’re not alone -- even Daniel Murphy’s New York Mets teammates are in disbelief over his performance.

The second baseman continued a terrific postseason on Tuesday night as he homered in a playoff-record tying fifth straight game and singled during a key rally for the Mets, who are within one victory of a World Series berth after they defeated the Cubs 5-2 in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field. Murphy also established an all-time club postseason home run record with his sixth home run as the Mets took a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.

“He’s on another planet right now,” Mets reliever Tyler Clippard said.

A solid hitter throughout his career (he boasts a .288 average in seven seasons), Murphy hasn’t been known for his power. Prior to 2015, when he hit 14 homers, Murphy only had 48 round-trippers in his first 3,081 career plate appearances -- an average of one every 64.2 trips to the plate.

But this postseason has seen Murphy -- who’s headed for free agency next month -- perform at a new level. Before Tuesday, Murphy had homered five times in 29 plate appearances in the playoffs, delivering key blow after blow for the Mets. The team’s previous mark for a single postseason was four, shared by Carlos Delgado (2006), Mike Piazza (2000) and Rusty Staub (1975). Murphy’s six homers is the most in a baseball postseason since Nelson Cruz tied the all-time mark with eight for Texas in 2011.

[SHOP: Buy Cubs playoff gear]

“It’s his time,” said closer Jeurys Familia, who pitched a perfect ninth for his third save in three games.

Murphy’s been so good he’s reached the point where it’s surprising to see him retired. But that’s just what the Cubs did in the first inning when Kyle Hendricks threw three straight sinkers past Murphy for a strikeout.

The next time up, however, they weren’t so lucky.

Hendricks left a 2-1 sinker up off the outer edge and Murphy planted it in the center field bleachers for a tie-breaking solo homer. The blast ties him with Carlos Beltran, who also homered in five straight postseason games for the Houston Astros in 2004.

“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 stage like he has so far,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “I mean, even the guys in the dugout, they're baseball guys too and they're saying the same thing.

“Question is who is this guy? I mean, he's been unbelievable. So hopefully he just keeps it up for certainly a few more games.”

Murphy said he hasn’t tried to put too much thought into the ride, he merely wants to enjoy it. If you were just handed the keys to a Porsche, would you question it?

[MORE: Lifelong Mets fan Matz stands between Cubs and elimination]

But Murphy attributes much of his success to hitting 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,” Murphy said.

Wright’s just as dumbfounded as the rest of his teammates. Murphy -- who also homered in the first inning of the first two games of the NLCS off Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta -- has become the topic of conversation in the Mets’ dugout.

And why not?

His homer off Hendricks on Tuesday helped him surpass Piazza’s all-time club postseason record. Whereas Piazza hit five homers in 22 playoff games for the Mets over two postseasons, Murphy has done it all in eight games.

And he’s hit ‘em off Arrieta, Lester, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

“It's ridiculous,” Wright said. “We were talking in the dugout and being here in Chicago, should have given the shoulder shrug to (Michael) Jordan after that last one. It's fun to watch. 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.”

[ALSO: Mets pounce on Cubs to take commanding 3-0 lead in NLCS]

The team on the other side isn’t enjoying Murphy’s run as much.

“We have to do something to take it back,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

But as Maddon confessed, it doesn’t seem to matter who’s on the mound for the Cubs -- Murphy has everything working in his favor. During a seventh-inning at-bat against Travis Wood, Murphy fouled off five fastballs between 92-94 mph before he got just enough of a slider to hit it past the mound for an infield single. Kris Bryant retrieved the ball and double clutched his throw, which allowed Murphy to beat it out and put runners on the corners for the Mets with one out. New York, which led 3-2 at the time, scored twice to extend its lead to three runs.

“He was on everything leading up to the slow roller,” Maddon said. “From my perspective, it's pretty much it doesn't matter who is pitching right now. Obviously, if you look at the line of pitchers that he's hit home runs against, he's just in one of those moments.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”