DENVER -- Make yourself at home, Daniel Murphy.
Murphy signed a two-year, $24 million contract with the Rockies last offseason, with hopes of taking advantage not only of Coors Field's big outfield gaps, but also its friendly flight paths. However, he hadn't gone deep at home this season until his eighth-inning homer into the Rockies' bullpen on Friday, which provided the difference in a 3-2 victory over the Reds to open the second half.
Murphy’s homer, two batters after David Dahl tied the game with a solo shot into the second deck, gave the Rockies joy and relief. Their starter, Jon Gray, threw seven strong innings only to leave trailing by a run. Dahl’s 12th homer of the season and Murphy’s winner, adding to veteran Reds reliever David Hernandez’s career-long misery at Coors, snapped the Rockies' six-game losing streak. Colorado also got back to .500, at 45-45, tied with the Padres for third place in the National League West. The Rockies are also 1 1/2 games back of the Phillies for the second NL Wild Card spot, with the D-backs and Brewers between.
“It was nice,” said Murphy, who went 3-for-4, also with an RBI double in the sixth. “Dahl-y, big at-bat there to tie it up, and fortunately I was able to get to that slider. Can’t say enough about the pitching staff. We made them thread the needle. But to hold up three runs in this ballpark is really impressive.”
Murphy’s first half was odd.
He missed the first 20 games after suffering a left index finger fracture on Opening Day. And there also were significant slumps -- 11-for-60 in his first 20 games after returning, and 4-for-19 during the team’s six losses going into the All-Star break.
Murphy entered the break with a slash line of .274/.328/.447, and the Rockies were criticized for letting longtime second baseman DJ LeMahieu sign the same two-year, $24 million deal with the Yankees -- especially after LeMahieu has emerged as an American League MVP Award candidate. But there was reasoning behind the move.
With Ryan McMahon ready to step in at second, growing pains and all, Murphy’s presence gives lefty protection for cleanup hitter Nolan Arenado -- something that teams took advantage of at times last year. On Friday, Murphy’s shift-beating double after a Dahl walk and an Arenado single gave the Rockies their only run in seven innings against Reds starter Sonny Gray, and -- most importantly -- the homer improved the team to 27-12 in games in which Murphy has a hit.
“It was a big swing,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “I still think that ‘Murph’ is going to be big for us here in the second half. He had some good swings today, as well. He used the whole field. He’s very capable of doing what he did in the eighth.
“Good for ‘Murph.’ That was his first homer here at Coors. I think there’s more coming. My vision tells me that.”
Dahl added: “He’s a great hitter. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him at all. This break was really good for him to let the finger really heal. He put together some great at-bats tonight, and the big homer. I was really fired up for him.”
A small subtraction should add to his hitting. Murphy wore a splint on the finger until about three games ago.
Murphy’s unencumbered eighth-inning swing brought unbridled joy -- the Rockies’ first victory of the season when scoring three runs or fewer.
“That’s a nice smash-and-grab win right there,” he said.