The fairly tale for Daniel Murphy continues to grow more remarkable by the day
Entering any postseason, the pundits and fans always look to the superstars to the standout as clubs seek to win pennants and championships.
For the Mets, it was Matt Harvey, David Wright, Lucas Duda, and Yoenis Cespedes who were viewed as the ones the Mets needed for any chance of success at reaching such goals.
While Harvey has certainly distinguished himself among those expected to deliver in this remarkable run for the Mets in 2015, the other two – Wright and Cespedes – have had a mostly silent postseason, both being neutralized by slumps at the plate.
But Daniel Murphy has beeing a little big player in the Mets four victories so far in the postseason.
In fact, the word, “little” could probably be erased from that description after his latest remarkable playoff performance.
Murphy went 1-for-4 in game one of the National League Championship Series on Saturday night, but that one hit might have well been four hits, as Murphy homered off of LHP Jon Lester in the first inning, setting the tone for the game and electrifying an already stimulated sold out crowd at Citi Field.
Murphy now has four home runs in six games in the postseason. He had a career-high 14 home runs during the regular season.
But only one of them came against left-handed pitching during the season.
Three of his four home runs in the playoffs have come against left-handers Clayton Kershaw and Jon Lester.
“He likes to be on the big stage,” manager Terry Collins said about his second baseman. “Sometimes on this team, you can get overshadowed by all the stars that are here. In the past when Jose [Reyes] and Carlos [Beltran] and Johan [Santana] and David, I mean, there’s been a host of guys that have come through here, and Dan Murphy has been that one steady guy that you look up, he plays hard.”
Murphy’s performance on that big stage has immediately transformed him into a baseball star, someone as captivating as anyone left in the tournament in 2015.
Eight of his 14 home runs either tied or gave the Mets the lead during the regular season. His home run on Saturday gave the Mets the lead, as did his home run on Thursday night against Zack Greinke in Los Angeles, as did his home run against Clayton Kershaw in game one of the Division Series eight days ago.
And it couldn’t come at a better time for Murphy, who is less than three weeks from declaring himself a free agent.
Part of his transformation into this baseball celebrity can be credited to an adjustment he worked on with “celebrity coach” Kevin Long.
“We really started hunting pitches in the middle of the plate in,” Murphy explained after Saturday’s win. “I started getting a little more aggressive. We kind of talked and found out what are my strengths, what are my weaknesses. And [Long] really helped me to play as much as I could to one of my biggest strengths, I think, which is I don’t swing and miss a lot.
“So, if I can get a good pitch to hit,” Murphy explained, “there is a good chance I should be able to hit it hard.”
All he’s doing is hitting the ball hard. He’s producing in most every opportunity he’s been given.
Saturday’s game ended appropriately as well, with Murphy making a heroic diving stab to his left on a hard groundball off the bat of area native Tommy La Stella.
It was significant, as La Stella represented the tying run after Jeurys Familia allowed a two-out single to Miguel Montero, which otherwise would have allowed the tying run to reach base.
“I don’t know if you saw, but I freaked out when I caught it,” Murphy said about his diving play. “Good thing [Lucas Duda] is a fine target to throw to.”
Wright appreciates his long-time teammate picking both himself and the team up with his remarkable and ever-evolving postseason story.
He’s locked in,” David Wright said. “That was a big defensive play. If that ball gets through, all of a sudden this is one of those nail-biters at the end of the game.”
But even if it had gone through, Murphy might have found a way to come through in a big situation after that anyway.
That’s just the play October – and really his entire season – has gone.
He’s a great baseball story considering all of the trials he’s been through and all of the doubts which have followed him through those trials.
He has certainly shown that baseball intangibles can outweigh science and metrics on the big stage, especially in a short series when the season is on the line.
Is that enough for the Mets to take notice and make another long-term commitment to Murphy? They committed to him years ago, and while he can be mysteriously aggravating over a long season at times, he is showing his in-the-moment value now and it’s paying dividends today.
Time will tell. But he’s a blue-collar, throwback-type player proving to be invaluable to the Mets in a glorious playoff run.
And in his first opportunity for a championship, his fairy tale story is only becoming more and more inspiring.