Murphy's legend grows with HR in 4th straight
Mets second baseman launches fifth homer in seventh postseason game
NEW YORK -- The legend of Daniel Murphy seems to grow each night. First Murphy vanquished Clayton Kershaw, who should finish no worse than third in National League Cy Young voting this season. Then it was Zack Greinke, a favorite to win the award. Next was Jon Lester, a three-time All-Star with a long history of postseason success, before another Cy favorite in Jake Arrieta.
Pasted together, David Wright said, Murphy's collection of defeated pitchers includes "some of the best that the game has to offer." Most Mets hitters have struggled against Lester, Arrieta and their ilk, despite taking a 2-0 NL Championship Series lead over the Cubs with a 4-1 Game 2 win Sunday at Citi Field.
Then there is Murphy.
"Very rarely do you see somebody get this hot against average pitching," Wright said. "Throw in that it's Kershaw, Greinke twice each, Lester, Arrieta -- I mean, that's impressive. He's about as locked in as I've seen a hitter, and he's carried that out now for seven games. That's quite a feat."
It is a historic feat in any context. Murphy's five home runs are tied for the third-most in a player's first seven career postseason games, trailing both Ken Griffey Jr. and Carlos Beltran by one. He not only set a Mets record Sunday with five home runs in a single postseason, but also matched Mike Piazza's franchise-record five career postseason homers.
Yet Piazza, Griffey and Beltran were sluggers; hitting home runs was their trade. Murphy is Murphy, known more for his contact skills in an era that seems to value those less than ever. Consider: Of the 39 players to hit five or more home runs in a single postseason, only three -- Melvin Upton Jr. in 2008, Todd Walker in '03 and Delmon Young in '11 -- posted a lower regular-season home run ratio than Murphy (one every 38.43 at-bats).
Teammate Michael Cuddyer considers all of that interrelated, chalking up Murphy's success against elite pitchers to his own sparkling contact rate. Leading the league during the regular season, Murphy struck out in just 7.1 percent of his plate appearances. When he swung at pitches inside the strike zone, he put them in play 97.5 percent of the time -- also the best rate in MLB.
Tack on some of the best plate discipline numbers of his career, Cuddyer said, and elite pitchers begin realizing they cannot try to whiff him; Murphy tends either to foul off their "chase" offerings or take them for balls. So he inevitably receives aggression instead, in the form of pitches he can handle that -- lately, anyway -- he has turned into home runs.
"The guy's just really seeing the ball well," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
The Arrieta pitch Murphy hooked around the foul pole Sunday was well south of the strike zone, an 80 mph curveball that Murphy reached down to wallop for a two-run homer. That was part of a three-run inning for the Mets, who parlayed that rally and Noah Syndergaard's strong outing into victory.
Asked afterward about Murphy's success against the Kershaws and Arrietas of the world, Cuddyer gave his explanation and laughed. "We just want him to keep doing it," he said.
"I definitely am seeing the ball well right now, so that's nice," Murphy said. "[Arrieta] put together one of the best second halves ever. So for us to get three and Noah to be able to match him and turn it over to the bullpen, it was a really good win against somebody like him."