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.
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“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?
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.”
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.”